A couple of weeks ago I came home from work and, as I often do, sat back in my easy chair to tune into the local news on WALB. While watching the news program I was surprised to hear the story about the Warwick City council firing their police chief. Well, being a Warwick City Councilman and Mayor Pro-Tem, I guess I was shocked! I wondered how the City Council had done such a thing without me knowing! After all, I had not missed any meetings and I had no knowledge of any such action so I figured it must be a mistake; right? I immediately picked up the phone and called WALB and explained they were running a news story that was in error. I explained that the Warwick City Council had not fired the police chief. I was told they were reporting what they had been told by the Warwick City attorney, Tommy Coleman. Again I explained that there must be a mistake because I am a member of the City Council and I have not missed any meetings so therefore I should know the Council had not fired the Chief. I was invited to go on camera to rebut the story. I told the reporter my phone call should be enough but he did not agree. He seemed to have no interest in what I had to say over the phone but apparently did take Tommy Coleman’s story over the phone. I guess this is the way WALB works these days.
So, here we go; all the news and allegations of wrong doing by the Chief. My investigation could find no proof the Chief had done anything wrong. In fact, my investigation shows the chief operating according the City Council’s expectations. Another fact; before all the hoop-la, there had been no, zero, complaints from the Mayor or anyone on the Council about the chief.
Fast forward to the hearing held on July 31, 2014. I’m thinking we will hear and see what evidence the Mayor has to prove the Chief’s guilt. Not so. I heard what the Chief said in his defense (all of which could be easily proven) but I did not see or hear any evidence presented by the Mayor or the City’s attorney, Tommy Coleman. What I did hear was a lengthy explanation from Mr. Coleman to the people in attendance regarding Georgia’s “AT WILL” laws. Basically he was telling everyone in the room that neither the Mayor nor he were obligated to give a reason for terminating the Chief and that therefore they would not be presented a case other than that of the “AT WIIL” laws of Georgia.
I and another council member tried to convince the Mayor and the other two councilmen to give the Chief an opportunity to make whatever adjustments they felt necessary. They would not agree to anything short of immediate termination. I don’t want to believe the recent arrest of some of their family members had anything to do with their decisions.
After a lengthy debate and building frustration the Mayor asked Mr. Coleman if he was going to tell myself and the other council member “about the call from the Judge”. What call from the Judge I asked myself?
With a disapproving look on his face Mr. Coleman told us this whole thing started when Judge William Gregory (Warwick’s traffic court judge) called him and told him it was “time for new leadership in the Warwick police department”. Mr. Coleman told us Judge Gregory said he would not come back to Warwick as our Judge unless we agreed to fire Chief Morris.
When I asked Mr. Coleman why this information had been kept from me and another council person he told me he felt that I would oppose the action and would cause problems. He didn’t use these exact words but it meant the same thing. I guess he feels this way because I have questioned him in the past regarding his unsolicited advice. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Coleman is very knowledgeable in municipal law but, in my opinion, he often gets out of his swim lane with comments and opinions that are none of his business.
All said and done, I am still not sure why the Judge and Mr. Coleman decided it was “time for new leadership in Warwick”. Furthermore I thought that decision was left up to the citizens and the city government.
I feel Judge Gregory did not like the workload Warwick was placing on his time. The volume of tickets written and the legitimacy of the tickets were well within State law so it must be that he just simply wants to get home earlier.
Warwick’s City attorney, Tommy Coleman, has himself expressed in the past his opinion that Warwick is a “speed trap”. Well, not so according to the State of Georgia. We have documents from a recent audit to prove it. Not hear-say, not a personal opinion from a Judge or Attorney, not a personal agenda, but a written document from the State of Georgia declaring the City of Warwick as operating well within the law.
I hope this makes it to the paper. I felt that all interested parties should know what really happened. Chief Morris was fired because the Judge and the City Attorney felt it was “time for new leadership”. Not because he has done anything wrong or illegal. Chief Morris has always run his department at the direction of the City Council. He presents an activity report at every Council meeting. We all know what the numbers were and we all liked it!
As a result of all this nonsense David Morris has been hung out to dry. A spotless, 20 year career in law enforcement has been placed on the line for what I feel is no more than an arrogant misuse and gross abuse of our judicial system.
Warwick City Councilman & Mayor Pro-Tem
City of Warwick, GA