Facebook content related to the Griffin Police Department now the basis of two investigations

Griffin Police Department Chief Mike Yates/Photo courtesy of city of Griffin

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Only four weeks after a press release posted on the City of Griffin Police Department Facebook page was deleted under mysterious circumstances, a second post related to the Griffin Police Department was deleted from a local community forum Facebook page.

The latest deleted social media content involves a March 22 post on the Griffin + Spalding Information Page that was created using Griffin Police Department (GPD) Chief Mike Yates’ personal Facebook account.

It related specifically to his job, with Yates utilizing the post to make statements pertaining exclusively to his position as chief of police, such as explaining the basis of a specific on-the-job act and the posting of content Yates said is located in his personnel file.

Yates also discussed specific details of his job as the police chief in Jonesboro, Ark.

The first deletion of social media content – the removal of a press release related to a security breach of the GPD Crime Lab and evidence storage room – is now under criminal investigation.

City officials have denied that anyone with authorized access to the GPD’s official Facebook page deleted the press release and its associated content.

They have instead alleged the account was hacked.

A criminal investigation for computer trespass was launched by the GPD and a search warrant has been served on Facebook seeking production of “all posts, deletions, shares and login or logoff events for the ‘Griffin PD’ page” from 9:47 a.m. Feb. 23 through 3:45 p.m. Feb. 26.

The Griffin PD page is one of the accounts authorized to post and delete content from the GPD’s official City of Griffin Police Department account. Although multiple accounts have authorized access to that official page, the Griffin PD account is the only one for which a search warrant was obtained.

Griffin Staff Attorney Kelsey Carden now says the city’s only copy of Yates’ March 22 Facebook post that was deleted last week is associated with a separate investigation.

In response to an Open Records request in which The GRIP sought production of the city’s archived record of Yates’ post and all related content, Carden cited that second investigation as the basis of withholding the public record.

“…the only version of the post, comments, and reactions in the City’s possession at this time consist of records obtained in an investigation related to a complaint against an employee,” Carden said.

Carden confirmed the city’s second Facebook-related investigation is administrative, but she declined to provide further details, stating that she is not a spokesperson for the city.

The GRIP sought those answers from City Manager Jessica O’Connor, asking who made the complaint, the basis of the investigation, who is conducting the investigation and against whom the complaint was filed.

O’Connor confirmed the second investigation is underway, but contradicted Carden, denying any complaint had been received.

“… this is a personnel matter that I am investigating. There was no complaint filed,” O’Connor said. “That’s the extent of the questions I will answer regarding the investigation at this time.”

She later did say she is uncertain how long her investigation may take.

“I wish I did, but I don’t. I’m speaking with outside counsel, so I am at their mercy at this time,” she said.

Yates’ March 22 post did not initially include a statement from him but was instead limited to the sharing of a post from the Griffin Daily News Facebook page that was associated with that day’s discovery of a decomposing body in the vicinity of the IHoP on North Expressway.

The GDN article he shared referenced information attributed to Yates as well as a quote from the Police Chief.

The first responding comment was made by Pike County Times Editor Becky Watts who said, “Wow. Mike Yates did an interview with the Griffin Daily News. When will you be speaking to The GRIP?”

Watts has reported extensively on differences in the relationship between the GPD and various media outlets. Her reporting can be found here:

http://pikecountytimes.com/secondary/griffinpolicedepartmentpartIV.html#.YkUONujMK00

The GRIP Publisher Sheila Mathews also responded to Yates’ post by adding a screen shot of questions she emailed to Yates that day along with the statement, “He (Yates) certainly didn’t respond to The GRIP. Same stuff, different day. I’m still not going away.”

In a separate comment, Mathews posted a link to a recent article regarding GPD bias against The GRIP and said, “I’m sure the decision to provide zero information to The GRIP is unrelated to this. No way it could be further retaliation that violates my First Amendment rights.”

The March 22 incident in which Yates provided information to The Griffin Daily News while withholding the same from The GRIP occurred only four days after Mathews published an article in which former Griffin City Manager Kenny Smith confirmed the Griffin Police Department’s bias against Mathews and citing her “aggressive” news gathering as the basis of that bias.

“I think the difference in her (Mathews’) case is that, you know, Channel 2, 5, 11 and those people, WKEU, could give a sh*t less. I’m sorry, you know The Griffin Daily News is not exactly on top of things,” Smith said, later adding, “… So, she’s (Mathews) a little more persistent and aggressive and I guess that’s the difference in her relationship with the PD and everybody else’s.”

Mathews’ article on the GPD’s bias against The GRIP can be read here:

https://the-grip.net/2022/03/18/griffin-pds-bias-against-the-grip-confirmed-aggressive-news-gathering-identified-as-cause/

Yates later responded on his post stating, “The Griffin Daily news (sic) sent a real reporter to the scene to take their own photos, ask questions and interview people. They got commentary for that reason. When the other facts are known a news release will be sent out.”

“Chief Mike Yates, please define ‘real reporter,’” Mathews asked, but Yates did not elaborate.

Yates has previously referred to Mathews as the “self-appointed media” and “the illegitimate press.”

Despite his reference to a “real reporter” responding to the scene to “ask questions and interview people,” Yates has for several years denied Mathews access to interview Griffin Police Department personnel, including the agency’s public information officers. Yates has instead demanded that Mathews submit all her questions in writing.

However, when Mathews does comply with Yates’ demand, she rarely receives a response to emailed questions.

Prior to the deletion of his post, Yates faced criticism including links to articles related to his employment as chief of the Jonesboro, Ark., police department, a position from which he resigned after receiving a 30-day unpaid suspension for his repeated social media harassment of The Jonesboro Sun crime and court reporter Sunshine Crump.

Yates further responded by copying and pasting what he alleged is a letter written by Dustin Azlin, whom he identified as another reporter at The Jonesboro Sun newspaper. Along with that, Yates said, “This is what a reporter with integrity looks like. This is a letter that I received from the person WHO ACTUALLY WROTE (emphasis Yates’) the nasty articles about me in Jonesboro, Ar. (sic) It is part of my personnel file and I am sure some might find it interesting.”

One response posted from the account of Kris Kristopher II stated, “That shows his (Yates’) integrity when it comes down to name calling from an (sic) city official.”

An account under the name of Debbie Blissit posted, “Mike Yates, need to fill in the reporter with integrity and not in your back pocket. Some people can’t be bought off…”

Thomas Thurston directly addressed Yates and asked, “So what is your definition of a real reporter? In fact what is your definition of transparency when it comes to your police department? It seems you only like reporters that just echo your sentiments. In that case the Griffin Daily News staff should be a perfect fit for you. They seldom investigate and usually just tote the water for local officials and politicians. It seems to me more professionalism on your part is needed. Perhaps we need a ‘real’ police chief.”

Administrators of the Griffin + Spalding Information Page say Yates’ post was not removed by an administrator authorized to delete content from that forum.

Mathews emailed Yates on March 23, the day his post was deleted, and asked if he had removed it, if so why and if all associated content had been archived.

Yates did not respond.

Those same questions were posed to O’Connor, who said she does not know who deleted the Facebook content.

Yates recently addressed social media activity with Griffin Police Department personnel.

Immediately following the January 2022 termination of former GPD Lt. Chris Wilson, Chief Mike Yates – with a subject line that read “Don’t get caught up in the mess…..” – emailed the following advice to his officers.

“As a reminder, the City has a firm policy on Social Media. This is Article 20, page 64-66 of the City’s personnel policy. I caution each of you to be cognizant of your actions if you choose to comment on this matter in this or any other social media arena. First and foremost, you are a public servant which means you are held to a higher standard than the general public with regard to your on-duty and off-duty conduct, professionalism and ethics,” Yates wrote. “In addition, there is no expectation of privacy in social media activity. Engaging in social media activity that purports or serves to announce or explain details of any City of Griffin programs, projects, activities, initiatives and events is prohibited.”

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Comments

  1. Kathy Laws says:

    Well, I see that the Jessica and Sheila witch-hunt against Yates is still in full swing!!!
    No reporting on the child molesting school board member but yea, Sheilas a “Real” reporter. Sure.

  2. Well, what was missing out of the evidence room?? Beating around the bush does doesnt itntexplain missing evidence this is something that they’re not telling us?

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