Media shut out by GPD Chief Yates now subject of IA investigation

Yates mug RTP

Griffin Police Department Chief Mike Yates – Photo courtesy of the city of Griffin

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

In response to unequal restrictions and demands invoked against The GRIP by Griffin Police Department Chief Mike Yates, Publisher Sheila Mathews met with Griffin City Manager Kenny Smith in an effort to reach a resolution that would facilitate an impartial professional relationship.

The basis of this meeting was the structure of Griffin’s government. As the city manager, Smith is the administrative head of the municipality’s government. In day-to-day operations, Smith is the sole city official in authority over Yates, as well as all other department heads.

“The city manager shall be the administrative and fiscal head of the city’s government and shall devote his or her entire time and attention to the office…..commissioners shall deal with all officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the manager solely through the manager, and neither the commission nor its individual members shall give orders or directions to any such officer or employee, either publicly or privately, other than the city manager,” section 3.2(b) of the city of Griffin Code of Ordinances reads in part.

During the meeting, Mathews presented email correspondence detailing the manner in which Yates has singled out The GRIP, which has resulted in a greatly restricted flow of information.

According to Yates’ statements, The GRIP is constrained to such an extent that information can only be obtained from Yates, and all questions to him must be submitted in writing, and all responses will be provided in kind.

Smith confirmed that there is no citywide media policy, but that each department has its own policy about operations.

When asked if individual department heads are authorized to determine their own media policies, Smith responded and specified, “In some cases. In operations that are specific to their department.”

Mathews then inquired if that includes determining which media they will work with and which they will not.

“I don’t have all their specific policies in front of me, but I mean, we should be working with all the media. There’s no stipulation over what media we work with and what media we don’t work with,” he said.

“Well that’s the issue, the situation in which I find myself,” Mathews responded, later adding, “If you say, ‘We should be working with all media,’ that certainly isn’t the case.”
When asked if he could suggest any further steps The GRIP may take to facilitate an improved professional relationship, Smith said, “I don’t. You know, I kind of feel like I’m kind of in the middle of a pissing contest here between you and Chief Yates, and I don’t know that it’s fair to put me in the middle of that because I don’t know the details of either side. I don’t know why the Chief is skeptical to give you a verbal interview. I don’t know any of those details, so I’m kind of caught in the middle of this.”

He then added, “What I do want is to have open communications with all media outlets as it relates to specific incidents that occur.”

However, he then said, “This Boynton thing, I think, has kind of been a dead horse that we keep beating on. That’s the GBI’s case, the D.A.’s case and the P.D.’s case, and I think going back and forth between all those entities sometimes causes some confusion, so I can see where, in that particular case, if the Chief is requesting to put answers to questions in writing, maybe copying all the agencies so everybody hears what everybody is saying, but when it comes to incidents that just occur, you know, when the PIO is giving out information on general incidents that occur, there’s no reason for you to not have the same access everybody else does.”

Mathews then clarified that it was not her intention to put Smith “in the middle of a pissing contest.”

“I don’t want to put you in the middle. I would be more than happy to sit down and have this conversation with the Chief if I were allowed an opportunity to do so. Because, as you can see, he refuses that, I have no option but to go, and you are his supervisor, so I have no other recourse but to come to you. Literally, there is no other recourse for me,” Mathews said. “So, I’m certainly not trying to put you in the middle of a pissing contest. I don’t want to be involved in a pissing contest. I’m trying to resolve a pissing contest that I didn’t begin. So, that’s my perspective. That’s my purpose.”

This meeting concluded with Smith confirming he would be in touch with Mathews after consulting with Yates.

After a week passed with no further communication, Mathews filed a formal complaint against GPD Chief Mike Yates alleging his edicts are in violation of numerous segments of his agency’s Public Information/Media Relations Standard Operating Procedure.

Specific details of that complaint and the forthcoming Internal Affairs investigation will be reported upon its conclusion.

 

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