By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — Almost a year after an investigation began into alleged wrongdoing by Clayton County police Chief Greg Porter, the county's governing board has put him on unpaid administrative leave.
Porter was ordered to turn in his badge and gun Wednesday, said Chairman Jeff Turner.
"He didn't take it well," said Turner. "That's to be expected after such a long wait. But we have a job to do and I take it very seriously."
Deputy Chief Chris Butler is in charge of the department, pending the outcome of the investigation, he said. Despite repeated attempts by the Clayton News Daily, Porter could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
His Atlanta attorney, Manny Arora, has said that Porter is innocent and that the accusations are the result of a misunderstanding.
Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson contacted Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan for assistance into the review of an allegation of the theft of $36,000 of grant money by Porter and his brother, Robert Porter, citing a full caseload.
In her June 29, 2012, letter to Keenan, Lawson stated, "Due to other large ongoing public corruption investigations we do not have time to investigate this case and need your assistance. We have most, if not all, of the pertinent documents."
The brothers operated two consulting firms, Eagle Eye and Busy Body, which were hired in 2009 to provide off-duty law enforcement officers for home surveillance on Clayton County State Court DUI probationers, said Clayton County Court Administrator Matt Sorensen last year.
In June 2012, Sorensen said he and State Court Judge Linda S. Cowen discovered a discrepancy in the way Porter was paid in 2009 but Sorensen declined to be more specific, citing the ongoing investigation.
However, Porter remained on the job as the investigation continued. Turner, who was previously police chief with Porter as one of his deputy chiefs, was elected commission chairman and took office in January.
Turner said there seemed to be no hurry on the part of commissioners to remove Porter from his position, that the board seemed content to wait for the outcome of the GBI investigation.
But when Senior Services Director Mary Byrd was placed on administrative leave last week pending an investigation into alleged mishandling of a county bank account, attention suddenly turned to Porter's standing, said Turner. He said a county commissioner who was on the board before he was elected wanted to know why there was an inconsistency in the treatment of the two department heads.
Turner said he agreed.
"We owe it to our employees to be fair and consistent," he said.
The allegations into Byrd's wrongdoing are being investigated by the Clayton County Police Department.
The GBI investigation could be completed within the next couple of weeks. If Porter is cleared, Turner said he will return to his job. If Porter is implicated in criminal wrongdoing, Turner said what happens next will be determined by the Civil Service Board.
"The Board of Commissioners will convene and discuss how to move forward as governed by the Civil Service Board rules," said Turner.
Porter was appointed chief in September 2010 after Turner was forced out in December 2009. Accused of mismanaging the department by then-Clayton County Chief of Staff Alex Cohilas, a DeKalb County District Attorney-led investigation cleared Turner of any criminal wrongdoing.