Kingston mayor demotes chief of police Harrell
by Matt Shinall
Aug 02, 2011 | 3762 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Allegations flew Monday at Kingston's work session following the demotion of former Police Chief Walter Harrell by Mayor Dexter Jones.

Jones demoted Harrell last week to the position of patrolman for several alleged infractions which Harrell said are erroneous.

Harrell had returned to work following a law enforcement training course in Savannah when he received a letter informing him demotion. The training, a police chief academy, was according to Jones, unauthorized. Jones alleges that Harrell did not follow proper procedure when leaving thereby "abandoning his post" on Saturday, July 23. Therefore, expenses occurred during the academy, including food and lodging, were deemed by Jones as unauthorized as well.

In addition to these allegations, Jones claimed that through public records requests, he found where Harrell had falsified his application for employment with the city. After Monday's work session of the Kingston City Council, Jones said Harrell was terminated from previous employment with the City of Calhoun for felony theft charges which he noted were dropped.

"At this time, I really don't know [why I was demoted] ... [Jones] listed some allegations that are not true," Harrell said. "He stated that I committed a felony theft with the Calhoun Police Department. I was never charged with a theft, I don't know where he got that from.

"The mayor took it upon himself to do his own investigation and he just read the records wrong. I do have records to show what I did while I was there and I do have my POST summary where there were no charges brought against me."

Jones indicated that Harrell had "broken several rules" and brought his credibility into question. With Harrell in attendance Monday along with his Attorney James Blalock, the issue came to a head at the close of the work session. Blalock had signed up to speak on a sheet provided, though at the meeting's close when Councilman Louise Howell asked if he could address the council, Jones refused citing charter provisions.

According to city procedures, public comments are taken at the month's regular meeting. Jones was visibly angered by the proceedings which he called "out of line."

"There is nothing in our handbook or charter that would facilitate an attorney coming in here," Jones said. "He has no business in this meeting tonight. ... This is not the forum for that, if he's going to take legal action then he needs to go down to the courthouse and file his papers."

Monday's work session was followed immediately by a special called meeting for the purpose of voting on the 2014 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax project list to be voted on in November. The SPLOST list was approved as was a second reading of amendments to the animal control ordinance to bring Kingston's policy into alignment with Bartow County Animal Control.

In the work session, four items were discussed to be voted on at the regular meeting.

* The purchase of new water meters for the purpose of replacing aging equipment.

* First reading of an amendment to the alcoholic beverage ordinance allowing for the collection of excise tax and spelling out proper procedures for reporting sales.

* First reading of an amendment to the water ordinance bringing Kingston in line with state mandates for conservation regulations.

* Installation of a fuel management system to track fuel usage at an estimated cost of $11,000.

The Kingston City Council will hold their regular meeting Monday, Aug. 8, at 7 p.m., at city hall.