Multiple investigations involving SCFD personnel ongoing

The Spalding County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to draft a letter to Sheriff Wendell Beam requesting his office investigate allegations of criminal activity that have been levied against personnel of the Spalding County Fire Department.

Also forwarded to Beam were documents obtained from the Hometown News of Spalding County and Beyond, most commonly known as the Griffin Journal, an online media outlet owned and operated by current Spalding County Commissioner Bob Gilreath.

The letter states, in part, “These documents state several allegations of misconduct with regards to an employee(s) at the Spalding County Fire Department. Due to the severity of these allegations, we hereby request the Spalding County Sheriff’s Department investigate the allegations as they deem necessary and prosecute any crimes discovered to the full extent of the law.”

According to Special Agent in Charge Wayne Smith, of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Region 2 office, a separate investigation involving one SCFD firefighter is already underway, but it has not received a request to assist in the incident outlined in the commissioners’ letter to Beam.

However, Smith said his office has discussed the most recent allegations with officials of Beam’s office.

“It (the letter of request) mainly refers to a blog operated by one of the county commissioners. The Griffin Journal basically says they have unnamed sources who have related information to them that there are drugs being sold by firefighters to other firefighters, and the theft and sale of personal property,” Smith said. “We’re discussing it with the Sheriff’s Office – the proper way to proceed.”

Smith said to the best of his knowledge, Gilreath’s unnamed sources have not come forward to file a report with any law enforcement agencies.

He then stated that the ongoing investigation being conducted by his office began the week of Nov. 22, and thus far, investigators have received conflicting statements from those interviewed.

“What we’re looking at could be a criminal act, if the elements of the crime are there. It’s still a little too early to say,” Smith said. “We have two different versions – one would indicate a crime and the other would not. At this point, we’re doing what’s called a preliminary review. That’s an investigation to determine if it’s plausible that a crime has occurred. There are a lot of allegations right now, and that’s not unusual in this type of situation.”

In addition to the commissioners’ letter requesting Beam’s office investigate the criminal allegations, a 4-1 vote also approved the hiring of Atlanta attorney John Lowery, of Pursley, Lowery & Meeks, who will conduct yet another investigation involving the SCFD and allegations of a hostile work environment.

Spalding County Manager William Wilson said Lowery’s compensation will be capped at $10,000, and he is being required to remain within the original scope of his investigation. Ω


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