Walthourville Police Chief Bernie Quarterman is back on duty Monday after serving a three-day suspension, according to a statement, released Thursday, from City Clerk Melissa Jones, who is also the city’s human resources administrator.
Jones’ statement said Quarterman, who was suspended Nov. 11 by Mayor Daisy Pray, “admitted” responsibility for violating the city’s process for approving overtime.
Quarterman, who filed a federal “whistleblower complaint” against the city through the Occupational Health and Safety Administration days prior to his suspension, said he was told of the suspension by WPD Sgt. Stephen Wright and turned in his badge and gun.
Quarterman has claimed he and his officers face a hostile work environment and the city did not have adequate police protection at night.
Pray disputes his claims.
The statement said Quarterman accepted a three day suspension without pay and a letter of reprimand for “lack of control related to the continued training and certification of a police officer and the negligent handling of a matter of legal process,” the release said.
Quarterman’s actions potentially exposed the City of Walthourville to unwarranted financial responsibility, the statement read.
Quarterman said Saturday he accepted the suspension because of the overtime violation, but added it was necessary due to the shortage of manpower.
“Securing the safety of the citizens of Walthourville is my priority,” he said. However, Quarterman said he doesn’t understand what Jones is referring to when she referenced training and negligence.
through POST and each officer’s official records,” he said. “Nor were any legal processes negligently handled.”
Quarterman said he requested Pray and council look into Jones’ allegations.
“Her accusations are simply retaliation,” he said.
The chief said he seeks to work with the mayor and council to promote a positive and safe environment for all the employees and citizens of the City of Walthourville.
The subject of public safety was brought up by residents at Tuesday’s city council meeting. During citizen input, two women spoke about their concerns.
One woman asked why there were no WPD officers patrolling her subdivision the previous evening. The woman asked if the mayor had halted WPD night patrols.
Pray said the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office was covering the city because WPD officers had just finished a full shift at 7 p.m.
However, the woman insisted she didn’t see any LSCO vehicles patrolling the area and pressed the issue.
Pray said LCSO deputies were assigned to cover the area and were patrolling throughout the evening. She added she will look into the matter to ensure patrol vehicles are keeping the community safe.
Resident Jenessa Wright asked why WPD officers weren’t sent to secure a peaceful protest she and a few others held two weeks ago at the House of Prayer Christian Church.
Wright said she feared the church members, who outnumbered the protestors, could have posed a threat in maintaining the peace.
Wright, a former church member, alleges HOPCC is a cult. She said during a similar protest in May church members, who numbered in the hundreds that day due to a national convention, walked up to the protestors escorted by three Liberty County Sheriff Deputies.
She said things could have gotten out of hand but Quarterman did routinely patrol and kept the peace. She questioned why the city had not offered their support in keeping the area safe.
Attorney Andrew Johnson, filling in for city attorney Jeff Arnold, said the city could not get involved the matter.
Wright left the meeting saying her question was not answered.
Johnson later explained that former members of HOPCC had come before the council previously, requesting support in providing a facility to host a meeting or requesting the city’s support against what they perceive is a cult.
“The city doesn’t get involved in matters like that,” Johnson said. “If the city perceives a threat to the public’s safety the city will definitely patrol, watch and make sure its citizens are protected.”
At Tuesday’s meeting:
The Council approved a request for the addition of sidewalk along Frasier Road to be added to the Frasier Road paving project. They also approved the final plat for the Mehalko Road Subdivision.
Council members approved business and alcohol beverage licenses for Samir and Manishkumar Patel. Samir Patel purchased the Clyde’s convenience store and gas station at 1537 Dunlevie Road. Manishkumar Patel purchased the Clyde’s on Airport Road. Both men said they are going to remain as convenience stores and gas stations but under a new name.
Interim Fire Chief Anthony Burns reported there were 28 medical calls between Oct. 25 and Nov. 14. There were six vehicle accidents, one cooking fire, one false alarm and three public safety education courses.
He said the city had a visit from the state Fire Standards and Training Council who confirmed the city’s fire personnel were 100 percent trained and certified at the basic level.
A police officer reported two burglaries, two entering autos, four thefts, three total arrests and 58 citations and 23 warnings were issued Between Oct. 24 and Nov. 14.
“All of the Walthourville Police Officers are properly certified and have exceeded in their continued training, and that can be verified