Glynn County released its response on Friday to a grand jury presentment detailing the jury’s findings in a recent scandal that led to the dissolution of the Glynn Brunswick Narcotics Enforcement Team.
Details began emerging in February about misconduct in the ranks of the GBNET.
Glynn County Superior Court Judge Roger Lane issued a court order earlier this year detailing allegations against GBNET officers that brought into question many of the officers’ testimonies, endangering more than 100 convictions.
Later in the year, a Glynn County grand jury issued a presentment detailing its findings when looking into the allegations.
On Friday, Glynn County released a response to the presentment, penned by County Manager Alan Ours.
He started by noting that Glynn County Police Chief John Powell started an investigation into the situation before Lane issued his order.
“Chief Powell requested the GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigations) investigation as soon as he learned about the allegations,” Ours wrote.
First, the grand jury brought up an incident in which a GBNET officer was found to have had a sexual relationship with an informant and supervisors took no action to document or investigate.
According to Ours, the police captain responsible did not report the misconduct to Powell, and when Powell found out, he immediately moved to address the issue.
Following the discovery of the misconduct, the grand jury found the officer was allowed two months of sick leave for inpatient alcohol addiction treatment, but that the county did not document the treatment or place any restrictions upon him when it did find out.
By way of explanation, the release explains that the county has a process for requesting extended time off for such things under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The officer did not follow procedure, however.
“An FMLA form was not completed,” Ours writes. “As a cross-check, an employee in human resources is assigned with reviewing time records for every pay period to determine if all of the required documents are completed for extended sick leave. The employee assigned with this task has been counseled on the requirement to review this each pay period.”
As for letting him back on the job without restrictions, the response says the county didn’t have a choice.
“Treatment for alcohol addiction is covered and protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Unless there are performance issues, the employee must be allowed to resume the duties of their position,” Ours wrote.
Next, he responds to the grand jury’s claim that GBNET officers followed an informant to Nassau County, Fla., to run surveillance on a narcotics transaction without alerting the authorities in Nassau or Camden counties.
He referenced a press release issued on Feb. 28, 2018, that detailed the events of the surveillance operation and traffic stop before explaining that action was taken behind the scenes.
A statement signed by Glynn County Sheriff’s Office Captain Tom Jump states that Camden County Sheriff Jim Proctor was made aware of the investigation, but not that GBNET officers would “be present” in Camden County.
“GBNET officers never stopped in Camden County, but traveled through the county on their way to and from Nassau County,” Ours wrote.
He did not know whether or not authorities in Nassau County were made aware of the investigation.
“However, the county attorney (Aaron Mumford) has advised me that it is not against the law to conduct surveillance in another community, provided police action by GCPD officers in another community, unless they are under the protocol of another local, state or federal agency, would be against the law,” according to Ours’ response.
As for the grand jury’s mention of the accident and fatality, Ours said the way the finding was worded made it difficult to decipher the intended meaning.
The grand jury’s next finding dealt with the same accident. A GCPD patrol officer at the scene of the crash was initially told by supervisors to exclude the GBNET investigation from his report, a command later overruled by another supervisor. The grand jury also found that an internal affairs investigation was then launched into the second supervisor.
According to a statement attached to Ours response signed by the officer in question, he discussed which details to include with GBNET investigators, not supervisors.
When he was told by that supervisor to change the report, he filed a complaint. That complaint led to the internal affairs investigation, according to Ours. It is normal to exclude certain sensitive information from reports, he explained.
As for the grand jury’s finding that two GBNET officers uncovered another’s sexual relationship with an informant, Ours referred to his earlier statement about Powell himself asking the GBI to conduct an investigation.
Next, he addressed the grand jury’s description of an instance in which one of GCPD’s supervisors declared he would not cooperate with the GBI’s investigation, and that he would encourage other officers to do the same.
No law or county policy required the supervisor to cooperate, he explained.
“The officer’s guidance to other officers to not cooperate with the GBI is unfortunate, but I am not aware of a legal or policy violation,” Ours wrote. “Therefore, if a policy violation does not exist there is not a viable reason to discipline the employee or reassign them to another position.”
Because the grand jury did not define what it meant by “retaliation,” Ours stated in the response that he could not adequately answer the grand jury’s claim that officers cooperating with the GBI had been the victims of retaliation and attempts to discredit them in other law enforcement agencies.
“I would need to know specifically how officers have been retaliated against, so I could review the specifics of the claim,” Ours wrote.
However, the response stated that it is the responsibility of the police department to let other agencies know if an officer has “misrepresented the facts” or has been involved in inappropriate actions.
In its findings, the grand jury referenced an order issued by Glynn County Superior Court Judge Roger Lane, which stated that GBNET supervisors concealed or ignored multiple reports of misconduct.
According to Ours, the police captain responsible resigned on April 30 “in lieu of termination.”
He also addressed the grand jury’s conclusions and recommendations.
When the grand jury states that it found a “culture of cover-up, failure to supervise, abuse of power and lack of accountability within the administration of the Glynn County Police Department,” Ours didn’t deny one had existed before current police Chief Powell taking over.
“Chief Powell has made a concerted effort to hold GCPD employees accountable for their actions and to eliminate the issues cited above,” Ours wrote.
According to Ours, Powell has worked at improving the police department since he took over. The leadership structure has changed, as well, as the four captains in power when he assumed the role are no longer with the department.
Ours goes down the list of the grand jury’s recommendations in his response, stating that they have been or are being addressed by Powell.
Finally, he addressed the recommendation that the county consider merging the police department with the county sheriff’s office, as having the police chief report to the county manager, who reports to the county commission, is unnecessarily inefficient and less accountable.
Based on his conversations with the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, Ours said Glynn County’s form of government is one of the most widely-adopted arrangements and the most efficient.