“I admitted to everything I did wrong,” Specks said.
Cedric Specks and his lawyer, Julian McPhillips, talked about their attempts to get Specks’ job back at the state prison.
Specks said he deserves to be placed on administrative leave, or even demoted, but not fired.
“I would describe it as a slap in the face, I would say,” Specks said. “It still seems surreal that I was actually fired at this point in my career.”
Over the past 21 years, Specks worked his way up from corrections officer to the No. 2 position at one of the toughest prisons in Alabama.
How the investigation into Specks began
According to a state investigative report, Alabama Department of Corrections investigators initially looked at Specks’ state-issued cell phone. That’s because a confidential source claimed Specks used it to promote contraband at the St. Clair prison.
No charges were filed against Specks over contraband — and he denies any involvement.
“But just to alleviate any doubt, were you ever involved in bringing contraband into the prison?” I asked. “No Sir. No Sir,” Specks said.
Explicit messages and images discovered on Specks’ state cell phone
But corrections department investigators did discover explicit messages and images on Specks’ state-issued cell phone. They were between Specks and three women assigned to the St. Clair prison. Two women were nurses — they were independent contractors. The third woman is an administrative assistant.
Specks admitted to receiving explicit photos.
“What are we talking about?” I asked. “You may have had a couple that were just topless, you know, stuff of that nature,” Specks said.
Specks admitted that he stored the explicit photos on an app on his state cell phone. The photo storage app was disguised as a calculator.
“You couldn’t just go to the phone and go to the photos,” Specks said. “It would be like, ‘Oh my God.’ You’d actually have to see that that app actually wasn’t a calculator, and know the pass code, to get into where the pictures were.”
Specks is accused of a pressuring one of the women to send him sexually explicit images.
He denies that. He said he was shocked when he saw that allegation.
The state investigative report also said Specks used his state cell phone to send one of the women a nude photo of himself. Specks said he doesn’t remember sending that kind of a picture.
Specks, who is married, said he had a sexual relationship with two of the women who worked at the St. Clair prison.
“I know I was wrong,” Specks said. “But, on the other end, I don’t want to say it’s the culture, or it’s accepted culture, but it happens.”
Use of a state car
Specks said he did not have a sexual relationship with the third woman he admits to having nude photos of. And while a corrections department document said Specks admitted that he used his state car to pick up one of the women, he denied that during our interview.
“I can’t remember a single time that any of those females have been in that car,” Specks said.
But Specks did say he would drive his state car to meet one of the women for lunch.
“We would meet. We would meet for lunch,” Specks said. “And you would drive your car there?” I asked. “Right,” Specks said. “And that would be your state car?” I asked. “Yes, Sir.” Specks said.
McPhillips said his client should never have been fired.
“Very, very wrongfully fired. It was overkill. The Department of Corrections, especially I & I (the Alabama Department of Corrections Investigations and Intelligence Division), is making a mountain out of a molehill,” McPhillips said.
A letter from Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jefferson Dunn to Specks alleges a number of workplace violations.
Possible state ethics violations?
But there’s another issue. State ethics law says no public official, or public employee, can use public property for private benefit. The head of state agencies are required by law to report possible ethics violations.
The state ethics commission will decide whether to hear the case—and whether there’s probable cause that a violation occurred.
Samford University law professor John Carroll is the former acting director of the Alabama Ethics Commission. He spoke in general terms about the state ethics law.
“You know, the ethics act specifically prohibits a state employee from using state-provided items for personal use —cell phone, automobile, office—anything like that,” Carroll said.
Possible penalties for violating the state ethics law can range from fines to a prison sentence in extreme cases.
“The maximum penalty is two to 20 years in prison. Does that scare you?” I asked Specks.
“It doesn’t necessarily scare me, because, if it comes to that, of course I’ll take all the legal action that I have to. There’d be a lot of people doing two to 20 years.” Specks said.
Meantime, the Alabama Department of Corrections had no comment.
An administrative law judge will recommend whether not to uphold Specks’ firing within a few weeks. The state personnel board will make the final ruling.
Either party could appeal that decision.