Kingston council told to honor promises
by Neil B. McGahee
Jul 02, 2013 | 2357 views | 0 0 comments | 106 106 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kingston City Council received an ultimatum at its July 1 work session. Keep your promises or else.

Former Kingston Police Chief Walter Harrell’s employment was terminated in January 2012 by former Mayor Dexter Jones who accused Harrell of “abandoning his post" when he allegedly failed to attend a training conference yet claimed expenses. However, Jones had lost his re-election bid in November 2011 and the newly appointed mayor Ron Casey assured Harrell that his employment records would be expunged. At the request of Bo Blalock, Harrell’s attorney, the new council agreed to reinstate Harrell to the position of police chief, which he would immediately resign, pay him eight weeks back pay and remove any remarks made by the former mayor on Harrell’s Peace Officer Standards and Training record.

That agreement has not been honored, Blalock said.

“Walter has been unable to find any employment in law enforcement despite the promises of a clean record,” Blalock said. “He was recently passed over for a law enforcement job in Euharlee. After Euharlee filed an open records request, they received all kinds of negative data — most of it untrue — that cost him the Euharlee job.”

Blalock and Harrell placed the blame squarely on Kingston City Clerk Michele Jones, who also served under Dexter Jones.

“I asked the city clerk for a copy of my records,” Harrell told the council. “She denied receiving my request, so I filled out another form and gave it to the mayor to initial it. When I finally got the records, there were two copies of my resignation letter and some unemployment forms — none of the information that had been supplied to Euharlee.”

Harrell produced two manila folders, one bulging with papers that he said was shown to Euharlee, the other that was given to him containing only a few pages.

“Walter Harrell is a good man,” Blalock said. “He was assured that his record had been cleared and it would not stand in the way of him gaining employment. We feel there is malicious intent by the clerk’s office and there should be repercussions for that.”

Blalock told the council that Harrell’s record must be completely expunged.

“We are trying hard not to file a civil action,” Blalock said. “But Mr. Harrell is being eaten up by attorney’s fees. If something isn’t done soon, we will have to file suit.”

Casey recommended that City Attorney Brandon Bowen write an official letter absolving Harrell of all charges and apologizing for the inconvenience he experienced.

In other business, council:

• recommended signing and returning a county-wide animal control ordinance;

• reported the city well system was on line and functioning at normal levels and would soon be back at full strength;

• reported that Billy Baker was resigning his position as water director.

Kingston City Council will meet next on July 8 at 7 p.m.