The chief of the Henry County Police Department put a sergeant on administrative leave for emailing to coworkers a scathing human resources report he obtained through an open records request, and has now issued a “cease and desist” letter to county commissioners because he thinks he’s being “defamed.”
One employee who obtained the report through an open records act — he received it the same day as the Henry Daily Herald — was placed on administrative leave and ordered to turn in his badge.
According to a county email, Henry County Police Chief Keith Nichols “received information that Sergeant (Woody) Fowler had violated Henry County Personnel Policy… which is not compatible with good public service.”
Nichols, along with Deputy Chief Joe Jackson, was the subject of a rather embarrassing, if not entirely substantialized human resources released to the public in April. Considering that the report contains serious allegations of cronyism, discrimination, mismanagement and retaliation, the county manager has said he’s simply not prepared to accept the report until he’s conducted his own investigation.
Nichols, it seems, is adorably threatening criminal prosecution against the county’s board of commissioners, as well as “individual members of the board, Doretha Bailey (the independent consultant who wrote the human resources report), her employer (Hewlett-Packard) and others related to the publication of an organizational climate and cultural climate [sic].”
Nichols is asking people to stop harrassing, intimidating and defaming him, calling certain statements a “personal attack.”
The Henry Daily Herald, including this reporter, first reported last month that Bailey was hired by the former interim county manager on the heels of an internal investigation into sexual misconduct among department employees which resulted in the demotion of some involved and the termination of others.
A few weeks after the report was released, the deputy chief, a career GBI investigator who came to the county department in 2008, quietly retired in the midst of the firestorm.
“The letter has no impact on the obligations of the commissioners to comply with the Open Records Act,” attorney David Hudson, the state’s leading expert on transparency laws told the Henry Daily Herald.
According to the Herald, Nichols hired an attorney to issue the “cease and desist order” on May 21, demanding county officials stop releasing public information which he himself considered “defamatory” in the wake of the human resources report.
“This is the first time in 40 years that I’ve been a public servant that a department director has served us at will or threatened me with criminal investigation,” County Commission Chairman Tommy Smith told the Herald.
– Kelsey Cochran