Walthourville Police Chief Bernie Quarterman said he expects to be terminated Monday.
The chief said he was suspended for a second time on Dec. 21 after receiving a letter of adverse action from Walthourville Mayor Daisy Pray.
The letter stated, “In order to promote the efficiency of the City of Walthourville Police Department and maintain discipline, it has been proposed to remove you from your position as the Police Chief of the City of Walthourville on Jan. 8, 2018.”
Quarterman served a three-day suspension without pay in November for violating overtime policy. The chief said overtime was necessary to ensure the safety of city residents.
The current letter of adverse actions stated his recent suspension was based on allegations that Quarterman once again violated overtime policy and the chief failed to provide a training schedule and that the chief failed to have an officer trained and certified to operate a radar gun, yet allowed the officer to issue speeding tickets.
The letter stated, “It has been alleged that a police officer is writing speeding tickets, despite the fact that he is not LIDAR or RADAR certified. To our knowledge, the police officer has signed a total of nine (9) speeding tickets, indicating that he clocked the majority of their speed by laser. This is not permissible under the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) standards governing our police officers and the City of Walthourville is potentially liable for this alleged misconduct.”
In a letter dated Jan. 2, given to the mayor, council of Walthourville and city clerk/human resources director Melissa Jones, Quarterman responded to the allegations.
Quarterman said that he was suspended on Nov. 9 and did not resume his responsibilities as chief until Nov. 27.
He said the overtime in question was submitted by Interim Chief Stephen Wright and approved by Jones. Quarterman also noted that he did turn in a training plan to Jones on Dec. 7.
The chief also continues to deny that his officers are in violation of their duties.
“I am unaware of any officer writing speeding tickets who is not certified,” he wrote in his statement to the mayor. “At this time, I am requesting a copy of the alleged (9) speeding tickets as well as a copy of the associated officers POST certification.”
Quarterman has said that all of the Walthourville police officers are properly certified and that current and continued training, can be verified through their POST records.
He has called the false allegations, “an intentional attack on my character and retaliation for my request to have an impartial investigation into her (Jones’) conduct and lack of integrity.”
Pray accused Quarterman of failing to add Jones in to the computerized records system which would allow her to perform background checks as required for her job.
Quarterman responded saying the request to add Jones was placed on Dec. 12. A copy of an email From Karen Branson of the Government Emergency Telecommunications System to Chanda Taylor, who works for the City of Walthourville 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 has said things are getting out of control and that he and his department are the constant target of harassment at the hands of the mayor and Jones.
He said his suspensions and possible termination are merely, “smoke screens,” masking the real issue — discrepancies in city finances which he says extends beyond the police department and has already led to lawsuits.
According to court documents from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Savannah Division, there is a settlement pending, telling the city to pay $7,142 in legal fees and $12,154 in overtime and back pay to Officer Latarchia Lee.
The chief said as a result of the suit, the city has compensated other officers for past mistakes.
Quarterman requested and paid for copies of financial reports in an open records request. He said he received a copy of the audit for the year ending Dec. 31, 2015.
Quarterman provided a copy of part of the report that showed deficiencies were noted in accounting, reporting and payroll procedures.
During the Dec. 12 city council meeting, Richard Deal of the CPA firm of Lanier, Deal and Proctor presented the fiscal 2016 audit which reported nearly one dozen identical deficiencies to those in the 2015 report.
Discrepancies included bank reconciliations not being done regularly; transactions being posted incorrectly, payroll being processed incorrectly, a lack of documentation of expenditures and inadequate year-end closing procedures.
The city has also over spent their budget by roughly $100,000 per year for the past three years.
Quarterman said he thinks he is being terminated so that questions about the city’s troubled finances will stop.