Former Walthourville Police Chief Bernie Quarterman claims the city’s mayor tried to pressure him into planting drugs to frame City Council Member Larry Baker, according to a letter sent to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal from Georgia NAACP President Phyllis Blake.
Quarterman has repeatedly said he and his department were the subject of harassment and retaliation from Mayor Daisy Pray and City Clerk Melissa Jones.
Thursday, the Courier obtained a copy of Blake’s Jan. 2 letter. It alleges that Pray pressured the outgoing chief, “to conspire to frame a city council member by placing narcotics in the city council member’s vehicle.”
The letter alleges Pray made the request multiple times and that Pray, “has made threats of physical violence and death to chief Quarterman.”
The letter was addressed and mailed to the governor and a copy was sent to GBI Director Vernon Keenan. According to Liberty County NAACP Branch Director Graylan Quarterman, the allegations have also been reported to the FBI, DOJ and the local district attorney.
DA Tom Durden confirmed he was alerted to allegations, but said he couldn’t comment.
Pray denies the allegations.
“After I took the appropriate termination action against our former chief of police, I have now been confronted with false, scandalous, scurrilous, and defamatory allegations of wrongdoing,” Pray wrote in an email Thursday. “I categorically and unequivocally deny the statement made against me. The allegation is a continuation of former Chief Quarterman’s campaign to deflect and evade accountability and responsibility for his gross misconduct and professional incompetence.”
On behalf of the city Jones said, “Today we have been made aware of certain allegations regarding the mayor which previously have never been brought to the attention of the city of Walthourville.”
The controversy erupted after Quarterman was fired, effective immediately, Wednesday after a hearing at city hall.
Quarterman left saying he had asked for a continuance but was denied. He said he was given only two days to prepare for the hearing, so he did not have time to seek legal counsel. He said documents he had requested on Jan. 6, were not prepared in a timely manner by Jones.
After the hearing Jones, who is also the city’s human resources director, said Jerald Burgess will serve as interim police chief.
In a termination letter, Pray said Quarterman failed to comply with directives after he was first suspended on Nov. 9. Pray wrote that during a Nov. 15 meeting Quarterman acknowledged he violated overtime policy and uponhis reinstatement he would abide by the policy. Pray said Quarterman again violated the policy by logging 60 hours of overtime for his department without approval.
Quarterman has repeatedly said the overtime was necessary, due to being short-staffed and to secure the safety of the city. He said he returned to work Nov. 27 and the overtime he is being penalized for was submitted by Interim Chief Stephen Wright. Quarterman said Wright turned in the paperwork to Jones but neither he nor Wright heard back.
In the termination letter, Pray said Quarterman came off suspension Nov. 20 and then took several days of vacation.
“Your duties and responsibilities as chief of police of the city of Walthourville would not have abated during your vacation,” the letter said.
Pray also wrote that Quarterman failed to provide a training schedule for an officer within seven days of the Nov. 15 hearing as he agreed.
Quarterman said a training plan was provided to Jones on Dec. 7. He added that a requested course was not required for the job since the course is considered specialized training, “and is not and never has been required for a police officer to conduct their duties or retain certification,” he wrote Dec. 7 to the city.
Pray pointed out in her termination letter and a document supplied by Peace Officers Standards Training that the officer in question was suspended January-February in 2016, yet Quarterman allowed her to work during this time. Pray said the former chief failed to notify the city of the suspension and that Quarterman later “disavowed all knowledge of any officer being suspended.”
The same officer is currently under suspension for failing to meet training for 2017.
Quarterman said the officer had filed a waiver and was reinstated by POST in 2016. He added the officer is currently suspended due to illness and has been hospitalized, unable to complete her training. Should the officer recover they could file a waiver to complete training and be reinstated.
Pray said another officer issued nine speeding tickets citing the use of laser equipment to track the speed without being certified in LIDAR/RADAR.
Quarterman said the officer in question is certified and completed the course in October.
Pray also said Quarterman failed to get the municipal court clerk entered into the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service system, which would allow her to perform her job.
Quarterman responded saying the request to add the clerk was placed on Dec. 12. A copy of an email From Karen Branson of the GETS to Chanda Taylor, the newly hired municipal clerk, was obtained by the Courier.
The email shows the request was submitted and to, “Allow 10-12 business days and vendor will email credentials to you. The average turnaround is 5 business days.”
Quarterman also said the clerk was a former officer who had her certification revoked.
However Jones said the clerk’s previous employment status has no bearing on her current position with the city.
Quarterman called his termination a “smoke screen,” masking corruption that extends beyond the police department and has already led to lawsuits.
He said he will not let the issue rest and is working with the NAACP and the district attorney to pursue charges against the mayor.
Graylan Quarterman said the local NAACP branch reported the allegations against the mayor to the state and national chapter, and the FBI on Oct. 19. They reported the allegations to the Department of Justice on Oct. 30. They spoke to the DA and sheriff on Nov. 13, and mailed the letter to the governor Jan. 3.