Ludowici City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday morning to reinstate Police Chief James Steiner, who has been on administrative leave for the previous three weeks.
Mayor James Fuller said that Steiner, who served as interim police chief from January until he officially was hired in April, was placed on administrative leave because of some personal problems he was having. The council voted to reinstate Steiner and allow him to complete a 90-day probationary period as police chief.
“When his personal issues were reported to me, I put him on administrative leave until the council met,” said Fuller, who didn’t reveal the nature of Steiner’s personal problems. “I never felt like (the council) wouldn’t reinstate him.”
Steiner has lived in Ludowici for about seven years. He worked for the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office before he came to Ludowici. Steiner retired from the Army in 1996.
The council deliberated Steiner’s fate during a 20-minute executive session that followed an emotional appeal by Ludowici resident Bonnie Stevens. She asked the council for help with another resident she claims is harassing and threatening her. She alleged to the mayor and council that Emmitt Milton had tried to hit her car with his and had even tried to run over her as she was walking down the road. Stevens, who drives for Meals on Wheels, said Milton harasses her by following her when she delivers meals.
“It’s been non-stop with him for years,” Stevens said. “He yells racial slurs at kids. He’s lived on that road for so many years that he thinks there aren’t supposed to be any black people living there. He’s just a real nuisance.”
Stevens said she tried to report Milton’s attempts to hit her while driving and while walking, but was told unless he did hit her or there were witnesses, the police department couldn’t do anything.
Stevens told the council she did have a few witnesses, and there were plenty more witnesses at the council meeting, including some council members and the mayor. Milton, whom Stevens said is in his 70s, was referred to as “ornery” and “just plain mean.” Several people offered anecdotal evidence as proof that Stevens’ remarks were not exaggerated.
“I was standing out in my yard, talking to some people, and he came out on his porch, acting like he was talking on the phone,” Fuller said of Milton. “He was pointing at us and saying, ‘Yeah, they’re right out there in the yard. Come and get ‘em.’ I told him, ‘Why don’t you just shut up and go back in the house?’”
Council members suggested that Stevens press charges against Milton for the attempted assault in order to stop the reported harassment. Fuller said he’d meet with the police chief later that morning to see what action could be taken to prevent Milton from harassing other residents.
In other business, Mayor Pro Tem Mary Hamilton talked about plans for a reunion of Long County’s former Walker High School students who attended school there between 1940 and 1960. The reunion tentatively is scheduled for the third week in July 2015.