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Justice officials fire Gainesville youth center officer
Corrections officer accused of an inappropriate relationship with teen
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The Department of Juvenile Justice fired a Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center corrections officer Thursday, claiming he had an inappropriate relationship with an Athens teenager living at the facility.

The investigation into Ardith Brown began last week through the reporting of another juvenile corrections officer, DJJ Commissioner Gale Buckner said in a news release.

Brown was removed from duty last week and placed on suspension with pay when the investigation began.

Jim Shuler, spokesman for the department, said the nature of the allegations is being withheld, saying the incident remains under investigation. The matter is an administrative action and Brown has not been arrested.

Shuler said he was not aware of any past arrests involving Brown. He said full criminal background checks are made for all corrections officer hired and trained.

Messages left Friday for the director of the Gainesville youth facility, Gary Payne, were not returned.

The firing came during a sweep of state juvenile facilities, which is intended to enforce safety and security within the department. Similar allegations at other facilities led to the random inspections and investigations when Buckner took office three months ago.

"As a result of those surprise inspections the majority of our juvenile corrections officers throughout the system have become more diligent in monitoring youth activity at our facilities," Buckner said.

"That's how this current misconduct allegation came to light," she added. "As we had hoped, all these security sweeps and facility inspections have already made a positive impact on most corrections officers throughout our secure campuses."

Much of the personnel actions have focused on the Augusta Youth Development Campus where several officers have been fired since late January.

Those investigations began after a teen was killed at the facility the same day Buckner began her term as commissioner.

The investigation into that incident is ongoing and involves several violations of physical abuse of juvenile inmates, as well as personnel smuggling contraband into the facility.

Despite the multiple firings, Bucker said the incidents are not a representation of the entire department.

"Our DJJ professionals work around the clock and around the state to protect the public while serving the needs of our troubled youth," Buckner said.

However, she said Thursday's action against Brown may not be the final misconduct violation found in the department as investigators continue their sweep.


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