A former Brown County jailer has been indicted on an allegation that he had sexual contact with a female inmate in the jail when he worked there.

Dennis Essary, 57, of Brownwood, was arrested Thursday on a charge of violating the civil rights of a person in custody by sexual contact, Brown County Jail records state. Essary is free on $5,000 bond.

Sheriff Vance Hill said he fired Essary on April 30. Hill declined to say specifically what Essary is alleged to have done with the inmate but said sheriff’s investigators believe there was “inappropriate contact” and that Essary “exposed himself.” He said the alleged activity took place “on more than one occasion” away from the jail cells but declined to describe the location.

“These actions weren’t forced upon the inmate,” Hill said. “However, the inmate can’t consent to this because state law prohibits any type of sexual contact between a public servant and an inmate.”

Essary worked as a jailer two different times for a total of seven years, Hill said.

“A few weeks ago we received allegations of inappropriate contact between then-jailer Essary and a female inmate,” Hill said. “We did uncover corroborating evidence that gave us reasonable belief that the allegations were true.

“We presented the case to the grand jury last week, and a true bill was returned.”

He said sheriff’s investigators learned of the allegations after the inmate and several witnesses notified jail staff supervisors, who immediately contacted Hill.

Hill said he suspended Essary with pay on April 24 before firing him on April 30. He said the alleged activity took place about a week before Hill suspended the jailer.

“He was less than forthcoming during his interview with investigators,” Hill said.

The sheriff said he took the allegations “very seriously because it’s my responsibility as sheriff of this county to protect the inmates.”