The Spalding County Board of Commissioners met at a called meeting Tuesday for a closed session on personnel and potential litigation issues. Following the 45-minute closed session, County Attorney Jim Fortune asked for the motion for a letter to the sheriff requesting the investigation.
The board voted unanimously to send a letter requesting the sheriff investigate the misconduct of employees of the Fire Department, “notably those referred to on Hometown News Griffin Journal website,” said Commission Chairman Gwen Flowers-Taylor. Commissioner Raymond Ray made the motion, seconded by Commissioner Eddie Freeman,
The allegations of misconduct include “dope and stolen property being sold” at fire stations and claims of assault and threats.
“Due to the severity of the allegations, we hereby request the Spalding County Sheriff’s Department investigate the allegations as they deem necessary and prosecute any crimes discovered to the full extent of the law,” Flowers-Tayor said in the letter to Sheriff Wendell Beam.
Flowers-Taylor also asked Beam in the letter, “once your investigation has concluded, we request you formally advise the Board of your findings.”
When speaking to the Kiwanis Club of Griffin Wednesday, County Manager William Wilson said, “Commissioner Gilreath published the allegations, which were not given to me,” adding “the matter should have been handled internally.”
At Tuesday’s called meeting, the board also voted 4-1 to hire attorney John Lowery and his firm, Pursley. Lowery & Meeks, to investigate the hostile workplace allegations by a county employee, and for the investigation to be expedited, stay within the scope of the allegation and for an amount not to exceed $10,000.
Commissioner Bob Gilreath was the lone dissenting vote for this motion made by Freeman and seconded by Commissioner Chipper Gardner, who is the previous chief of the county fire department. Gilreath said Wednesday he voted against the money for the investigator because “the county does not have the money to pay to have an investigation for one and should not have one for a complaint this frivolous.”
Both the allegations of misconduct and hostile workplace environment were made in letters on Gilreath’s for-pay website. Gilreath also questioned why there’s an investigation for this white firefighter but not one for a complaint by a black firefighter.
“If we have this when then we should have the other as well,” he said.
Wilson said this investigation “should not be confused with the witch hunt that went in 2010,” adding “that’s William’s term, not the county’s.”
The 2010 investigation stemmed from a firefighter recording and sharing a video of the victim in a fatal accident in 2010. Former firefighter Terrance Reid was fired and six employees of the Spalding County Fire Department were reprimanded as a result of the investigation, with five receiving written reprimands and one a verbal reprimand.
That investigation was conducted by Chris Balch, who in his report recommended termination of then interim chief Kenny West. Ten months later West was named fire chief.