An officer with the Forsyth County Court system has been fired amidst an investigation into whether the officer leaked “confidential” information related to a death investigation to individuals outside of the court system.
Jose Barrera, a former pre-trial services officer, was terminated from his position with the Forsyth County Court system on Dec. 20, 2018, two days after being placed on administrative leave by Court Administrator Robin S. Rooks, according to documents obtained by the Forsyth County News.
According to a recently filed Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office incident report, on Feb. 1, 2019, deputies took a statement from a local woman who alleged that Barrera had accessed her information via his “police terminal” and provided it to five individuals.
The complainant, Michelle Wynne Graves, of Cumming, stated that she believes personal information about her home, work and cell phone numbers, home address, work address and driver’s license, along with information about her height, weight and extended family, had been found on several court documents.
But in an interview with the FCN, Barrera unequivocally denied these allegations, stating that he had no reason to access the data by illegal means, when what he is alleged to have accessed is publicly available in court and sheriff’s office documents, or online via personal information databases.
Barrera stated that within a few clicks, anyone’s personal information is available online, accessible to the public, and to believe otherwise is ignoring the facts of the case.
“For her to believe that her information was leaked by me is grossly incorrect and I will believe that until the day I die,” Barrera said. “Anybody can be found.”
In a letter to Barrera on Dec. 17, 2018, Rooks wrote that Barrera was being placed on leave during the course of an “investigation pertaining to you using your position to access confidential files on a current investigation surrounding a death in which you were a witness.”
On Dec. 20, 2018, Barrera was sent a second letter from Rooks, stating that his employment had been terminated based on Rooks’s “loss of confidence in” Barrera’s ability to perform his duties as a pre-trial services officer.
Barrera would not speculate on why he was terminated by the court system, stating that during his period of administrative leave he was never contacted by the sheriff’s office and was never given any chance to defend himself.
Forsyth County Director of Human Resources Pat Carson said on Friday that they could not comment on the investigation into the allegations that have been leveled against Barrera, stating that, “The documentation provided stands on its own.“
In a statement to the FCN, sheriff’s office spokesman Doug Rainwater confirmed that the allegation is currently under investigation by their major case unit and stated that he could not comment further.
Employment documents state that a pre-trial services officer “monitors defendants placed on pre-trial bond by county courts.” The documents also state that maintaining “confidentiality of departmental documentation/information” is one of the essential functions of a pre-trial services officer.
In his application to the pre-trial services division of the court system, Barrera listed that he was a probation officer in Hall County from March to November of 2017, and previously worked as an officer with the Cumming field office of the Department of Community Supervision, but was terminated in October 2016. Barrera disputes the fairness of the termination, which he said was due to an inter-office disagreement over a relationship with a co-worker.
Barrera said that this most recent termination from pre-trial services, coupled with his termination from DCS in 2016, will likely bar him from finding future work in the criminal justice field.