By Joel Hall
In a nearly unanimous decision, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) selected Clayton County Deputy Police Chief Greg Porter as the county's new chief of police, Tuesday night.
Porter, a 23-and-a-half-year veteran with the Clayton County Police Department, was named the county's new permanent police chief, following an executive session, late Tuesday. The board voted 4 to 1, with Commissioner Michael Edmondson opposed, to make Porter the county's highest-ranked police officer, effective Monday, Sept. 27.
With the decision, Porter beat out two other candidates for the position, including Hogansville Police Department Assistant Police Chief John E. Pearson, Sr., as well as Clayton County Interim Police Chief Tim Robinson.
BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell said Porter was the most desirable candidate based on community response.
"Feedback from the community indicated that he [Porter] was more in the community and acceptable to the community, therefore, [the board] chose him as the chief of police," Bell said. "Based on his training, and background, and loyalty to the community, I have confidence that he will rise to the expected level of a chief of police."
Prior to Porter's appointment, Edmondson motioned to appoint Robinson as permanent chief of police, however, the motion died for lack of a second, according to county officials. Edmondson said that while he disagreed with the decision, he will support the county's new police chief.
"All three candidates were highly qualified and I voted my conscience," Edmondson said. "The board chose Greg. I look forward to working with our new chief."
The county has not had a permanent police chief since last December, when the board transferred former Police Chief Jeff Turner to head the now-defunct Clayton Regional Law Enforcement Academy. Porter, who worked his way through the ranks from the level of patrolman, said he is "honored and humbled" by the board's decision.
"I'm very honored and humbled by the professional challenge that has been put before me," he said. "I want to strengthen our community-oriented policing program and add a second piece, which is problem-oriented policing. Problem-oriented policing will address reoccurring problems from the beginning to the end, whether it calls for police to send code enforcement out, send DFACS (the Department of Family and Children Services), or just [for] police intervention.
"It is going to be vital that the department tries to model our law enforcement around those two pieces," said Porter. "Those two police actions have proven to be successful in the law enforcement community."
Porter said he looks forward to working with Robinson, who has served as interim police chief for the past 10 months and has 29 years of experience in the department.
"Robinson has been loyal to the department, dedicated and committed," Porter said. "He has displayed a level of professionalism that stands alone. I think he is very effective, we are a good team, and I think he's done a good job for the last 10 months in directing the department.
"I will encourage Deputy Chief Tim Robinson to continue to be a part of my administration," the new chief said.
Robinson said he is disappointed by the decision, but will continue to work with Porter. "It is what it is," Robinson said. "I've been a professional for 30 years. I plan to continue doing my best to complete the mission of the department.
"We've been friends for several years," said Robinson. "He [Porter] and I have worked closely together for a number of years. I don't foresee any problems."
In another matter, the board voted unanimously to enact an ordinance which would prevent county employees from participating in both the state and county pension funds.
Employees, who are retired and receiving retirement benefits, will be excluded from benefits during the duration of their employment, if rehired by the county to work full-time, according to the new policy. Also, all employees would be barred from participating in both the county and the state's pension plans at the same time.
"The people who are currently in two plans ... as of Nov. 1, they can only participate in one," said Clayton County Finance Director and Pension Board Secretary Angela Jackson. "At that time, their benefits, should they choose [to participate in] the other plan, their benefits here at the county will be frozen as of that date."
Jackson said that county employees who opt for the state pension plan would not be able to receive the county pension benefits until they are of retirement age, and no longer employed with the county.
Jackson said about 16 employees working in the Clayton County Tax Commissioner's Office would be impacted by the new policy.
"We're trying to prevent double-dipping," Jackson said. "There are several groups of people who are not allowed to participate in the county's pension plan for that reason. Once we realized that they were able to participate in two plans, and that some of them were, in fact, in two plans, we started moving toward doing something about that."
Tax Commissioner Terry Baskin said that the policy will "negatively impact" his employees, particularly those who have worked at low salaries for years and financially contributed to both systems. He declined to comment further, saying that there may be some "legal discussion" on the matter.