What started as a workplace dispute between two employees at the Mobile Animal Shelter resulted in an internal affairs investigation targeting one of the Mobile Police Department’s most senior officers. Maj. Linda Tims — the highest ranking Black female on the city’s police force — was recently cleared of all charges, but the complainants believe her trial was a farce.
Tims supervises the MPD’s Support Services Division, which includes communications, warrant service, records, training and the animal shelter, among other things. Earlier this summer, a young police recruit, Willie Tolbert, was working in the overcrowded animal shelter when he got into an argument with his own supervisor, Corrie Hoium, about the housing plan for a pair of bonded Boston Terriers.
Hoium wanted to keep the dogs together in the same kennel, while Tolbert thought it was best to separate them. When Tolbert refused Hoium’s order, Hoium advised her supervisor, Lt. Kendall Sterrett, that Tolbert was being written up for the incident.
Allegedly, Sterrett told Tolbert about the pending disciplinary action, but also ordered both Tolbert and Hoium to report to Tims’ office to discuss the incident. It was there, both Tolbert and Hoium later claimed, they learned that Tims wasn’t interested in the alleged insubordination. Instead, she aggressively inquired about friendly dinner parties held at the home of another senior officer, Capt. Billie Rowland.
For reasons that were never explained to Lagniappe, Tolbert allegedly showed Tims a photo of a 20-year-old female police recruit poolside at Rowland’s with what she believed was a vodka drink in her hand. According to both Tolbert and Hoium, Tims’ attention suddenly shifted from the dispute at the animal shelter to Rowland’s alleged complicity with underage drinking.
Hoium, a seasoned officer who left an assignment as a victim advocate at the Rape Crisis Center to take the less stressful job of supervising the animal shelter, said she was surprised by Tims’ inquiries about Rowland.
“[Tims] asked me briefly about what happened with Willie, then she proceeded to tell me Willie has pictures of [the female recruit] with alcohol in her hand in front of Capt. Rowland’s swimming pool,” Hoium told Lagniappe. “I never saw the picture and she said this could ruin [Rowland’s] opportunity at promotion to major. She questioned me if I had seen [the recruit] drink out there, but I had not. I had been there twice when [the recruit] was present … I knew what she was saying was not true about Capt. Rowland and I absolutely would not do anything to ruin someone’s 29-year career at the police department.”
Hoium, Tolbert and another shelter employee, James Douglas, told Lagniappe the gatherings at Rowland’s house were strictly fraternal and a “morale builder.” But Tims, Tolbert said, was relentless about her investigation into Rowland.
Tolbert was a probationary employee at the time and Tims told him the write-up would have resulted in his dismissal. But after the other supervisors had left, Tims allegedly told Tolbert she negotiated a “performance observation” on his behalf, so he could keep his job. But she also wanted him to do something for her.
“She made a couple comments about Rowland, saying he wouldn’t piss on me to put out a fire,” Tolbert said, suggesting Tims was trying to sow division. Tolbert resisted, but Tims repeatedly called his cell phone, encouraging the young recruit to attempt to secretly record his former coworker saying something incriminating about Rowland.
Tolbert refused, and eventually confided in other superiors. An internal affairs investigation was launched and allegedly, the claims against Rowland were unsubstantiated but investigators filed at least eight charges against Tims, including lying to investigators, conduct unbecoming and intimidating a witness.
At one point when Tolbert was speaking to investigators, Tims called his cellphone. While she was on speakerphone believing Tolbert was alone, she asked him to disclose details about the investigation, even though she was well aware internal affairs investigations are supposed to be confidential.
“They couldn’t believe it,” Tolbert said of the investigators.
Due to alleged conflicts of interest, police department brass convened an “independent” trial board consisting of the city attorney, a fire department officer and a member of the Mobile County Personnel Board. Both Hoium and Tolbert claim they were called to testify, but were never asked any questions about Tims’ conduct.
“When I went in, everybody was having conversation amongst each other, laughing and cracking jokes, it seemed very inappropriate,” Tolbert said.
“It was very inappropriate,” Hoium agreed, adding that as a member of the rape task force, she never saw a trial handled in a similar manner. “I have put multiple people in jail for the rest of their lives. I’ve been at trials numerous times and I can tell you I absolutely have never been treated that way by an attorney. [They] treated me like I was on trial.”
Allegedly, several of the charges against Tims were dropped before the trial board even convened. Weeks after it concluded, Rowland and others were told all charges were baseless.
The Mobile Police Department did not respond to a request for comment, but city spokeswoman Candace Cooksey said the city generally does not comment on personnel matters. Cooksey did confirm there was a trial board against a senior officer, but did not disclose the names of anyone involved.
“Once it got away from the one complaint that initiated this situation, it was really a lot of things that have to do with the supervising officers and not the operations of the animal shelter,” Cooksey explained. “It turned into multiple complaints being launched with high ranking officials in the MPD. There were some heavily disputed facts among the involved parties. There was an investigation that took place and ultimately that led to a disciplinary hearing they refer to as a trial board. All involved parties were extensively questioned and the trial board found there wasn’t sufficient evidence to substantiate the claims.”
Cooksey said by policy, trial boards usually consist of officers in the police department, but because of Tims’ rank, the “independent” board was convened to avoid bias.
“There are multiple sides to the story,” she said. “There are some allegiances and some people within the department are friendlier than others. And this spun up from something that is fairly routine — a write-up of an employee. At the end of the day, a neutral third party was convened to look at everything that was alleged, none of it was substantiated.”
Attorney Buzz Jordan, who represented Tims at the trial board, said the allegations against her were “very shocking.”
“Maj. Tims is an outstanding police officer who looks out for other employees in the department and oftentimes plays the mediator role,” Jordan said. “In fact what came out of the trial board was just that, she mediated a situation and when that situation was resolved, everything was in place.”
Jordan said he wasn’t certain how the charges even rose to the trial board level, but called it “unnecessary.”
“Maj. Tims has an incredible legacy at MPD and her legacy is intact because her experience and professionalism, from what I have heard, is beyond reproach. It’s really fortunate for the Mobile Police Department and the citizens of Mobile to have her in that position.”
For what it’s worth, the incident did resolve the dispute between Hoium and Tolbert. Still, the animal shelter employees said they were left with an unfavorable outcome.
“This is ridiculous,” Douglas told Lagniappe. A farrier by trade, Douglas said he doesn’t need his job at the shelter, but felt it was his calling at the time. “They are going to ruin [Tolbert] and [Hoium’s] lives. I can go away tomorrow and I don’t have a problem with that, but I just know this is wrong. Capt. Rowland is a nice guy from what I know, and they want [Tolbert] to paint a picture of that man that is totally wrong.”
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