Investigative report leads to The GRIP’s removal from Griffin PD’s press lists

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

The recent publication of an article reporting Griffin Police Department Chief Mike Yates, in his official capacity, fabricated and released a false document targeting a private citizen resulted in the removal of The GRIP from all GPD press lists.

Those lists from which Mathews was removed are used to disseminate information ranging from press releases and other general notifications to the GPD daily activity log.

The GRIP Publisher Sheila Mathews discovered she had been removed from those press contact lists, on which she’d been included for more than ten years, when she did not receive a press release issued Sept. 10, the same day the investigative article was published online at the-grip.net.
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The GRIP’s original articles related to Yates’ fabricated document can be read here:
GPD Chief fabricated, released record identifying Will Sanders as Matthew Boynton’s father

Document fabricated by GPD Chief Mike Yates raises legal questions

GPD Chief says questions about his actions are “foolishness”
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Prior to Sept. 10, the most recent press release disseminated by the GPD was emailed to the media Sept. 4, by Public Information Officer Lt. Daniel Jett, after Mathews requested information related to a shooting.

Mathews originally emailed Yates at 4:13 p.m. Sept. 4, asking with whom she could speak to obtain information related to a shooting.

Yates responded at 4:42 stating, “You may e-mail (sic) your questions to me or Lt. Jett and we will determine who is best to answer them, if appropriate.”

A list of questions was submitted ten minutes later, with a request that the information be provided that day.

In response, Yates said, “We will be providing the information you requested this evening. If you require answers or information within a specified time period you should probably not wait until 4:50 in the afternoon to make the request. Additionally, for my own understanding, I do not understand your “Deadline” as, from what I can tell you don’t print anymore and go several days, and apparently weeks without updating your page. Most real media outlets have a deadline cycle we can predict and know when to send them information but in your case we are at a loss. You certainly don’t have to explain this but an understanding might help us better suit your needs. As I said, we will be providing the information you requested soon in spite of the late hour of your request (sic all).”
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Those emails may be read in their entirety here:
Yates’ first response to Dollar General shooting inquiry

Yates’ second response to DG shooting inquiry
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Between Sept. 4 and 10, when Mathews discovered she had been removed from the press lists, The GRIP published no other articles related to the GPD.

Upon learning she was no longer on the GPD press lists, Mathews emailed Chief Yates asking the basis of her removal, but received no response.

With Yates having fully obstructed The GRIP from receiving any information directly from the GPD, Mathews was left with no alternative but to submit formal Open Records requests to the city of Griffin for provision of those records.

After nearly one week of Open Records requests seeking information members of the media had previously received routinely, Griffin City Manager Kenny Smith reached out to Mathews.

“As always, we are glad to provide you with any and all open information requested. Is there any other method that we might provide you daily activity logs or routine information like this that may be more simple and efficient than multiple open records requests?” Smith asked by email.

In response, Mathews detailed a small portion of the history that culminated with Yates’ seemingly-retaliatory act. This email was sent to Smith as well as all seven sitting members of the Griffin Board of Commissioners.

“Unfortunately, the simple and efficient release of routine information from the Griffin Police Department is a thing of the past. When I met with you in May 2018, I outlined in clear and specific detail the great lengths to which GPD Chief Mike Yates had been and was continuing to go to in his efforts to deny me equal access to information, despite a policy in effect at that time stating the Griffin Police Department would “cooperate fully and impartially” with the media. While you acknowledged a problem by referring to it as a ‘pissing contest,’ no changes resulted. Instead, the situation soon further deteriorated significantly with Chief Yates targeting me by seeking to have me arrested for a felony (which will be the subject of a future article in this series),” Mathews wrote, later adding, “Yates’ many retaliatory actions for the past three years have had a chilling effect on my ability to report news – including positive feature articles – pertaining to the Griffin Police Department. Following my recent report of Chief Yates’ fabrication and release of a false document identifying Will Holloway Sanders as the father of former Griffin police officer Matthew Boynton, Yates’ unprofessional and punitive conduct escalated based on his viewpoint discrimination against my reporting.”

Mathews concluded her email to Smith by stating, “So, to return to your original question, it’s all smoke and mirror, sir. Unless you are finally willing to address Chief Yates’ gross misconduct, I can’t think of anything else that may help.”
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Mathews’ email to Griffin City Manager Kenny Smith can be read in its entirety here:
Response to Kenny Smith Open Reocrds email

The GRIP’s original article related to Mathews’ May 2018 meeting with Kenny Smith may be read here:
Media shut out by GPD Chief Yates now subject of IA investigation
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Meanwhile, in the course of ongoing Open Records communications with Smith’s Executive Secretary Teresa Watson, Mathews had learned she had been returned to the GPD press lists.

In a later interview with Smith, Mathews asked if Yates has any accountability for his actions.

Smith said he does, explaining that when he learned of Yates’ actions, he called the chief of police and “made him” return Mathews to the press contact lists.

While Smith was thanked for his assistance in the matter, Mathews expressed skepticism based on numerous revisions Yates made to the GPD Standard Operating Procedure Media Relations/Public Information policy that endows the chief of police with the authority to take the same retaliatory actions against her or any other reporter he so chooses at any time.

When Smith was asked what Mathews should do if she is again removed from the GPD press lists, it was determined Smith should be notified and that he would once again have The GRIP publisher returned to those lists.

Prior to the publication of this article, The GRIP reached out to Chief Yates in writing, as he mandates, asking such questions as what was the specific basis of Mathews’ removal from the GPD press lists; who made that decision; which specific GPD policy did Mathews violate; which specific article had violated that policy; why was Mathews never notified of her removal from those press lists; on what basis was she returned to the lists; is there an appeals procedure for members of the media removed from the press lists; and has the press has been made aware of any appeals guidelines.

Yates did not respond to any of Mathews’ questions.

Comments

  1. Griffin Native says:

    Come on everybody in Griffin. You know nothing about this man Yates, he sounds like a broke down Trump. It makes you wonder about the people that hired him. What is going on, y’all letting the police department and sheriff office run this whole community and they are running it in the ground. Nothing there for your kids but trouble. Something needs to change there, seems all of you citizens are asleep or don’t care and your kids are suffering. Thank you Sheila, I can only imagine what you are going thru trying to report on this broke down Trump and community. Maybe you should just move on and go to a town that cares about their community and your work will be greatly appreciated. Yall should have raised hell and fought like hell when Homer Daniel was passed up for this job. A lot of people should have been voted out behind this.

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