- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

LaFAYETTE, Ala. (AP) - Etowah County’s chief administrator was charged with sexually abusing a child in east Alabama, authorities said Friday, but a defense attorney called the allegation an “atrocious” miscarriage.

James Patrick Simms, 57, of Camp Hill was charged with one count of sexual abuse of a child younger than 12, said Chambers County Sheriff Sid Lockhart.

Authorities received information about possible child sexual abuse on Feb. 8 and began investigating, said the sheriff.

Simms works as the chief administrative officer for Etowah County and stays there during the week, but he also has a residence in Chambers County, about 100 miles to the south, Lockhart said.

The sheriff said the charge was not linked to Simms’ job, but officers were aware of his position during an investigation and had contacted authorities in Etowah County during the probe.

“We let them know something was going on,” said Lockhart.

Defense attorney Skip McCoy said Simms denies the allegations and expects to be exonerated of an “atrocious” charge.

“This is a witch hunt, and Mr. Simms is the victim in this case,” said McCoy.

Etowah commissioners voted to place Simms on paid leave last week but would not say why.

Lockhart said Simms was released on bond after surrendering at the Chambers County Jail on Thursday.

Simms has been Etowah County’s administrator for about eight years. He previously worked as the administrator in Chambers County.

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