Official offers to pay for probe cost overrun

WARNER ROBINS — City Attorney Jim Elliott wrote in a memo to the mayor and City Council he will personally pay more than $500 for an outside investigation that looked into harassment claims made against the Warner Robins Police Department by an employee.

The city is expected to be charged $3,037.50 when it receives a bill from Jennifer Keaton of OneMediation, a firm out of Atlanta that handled the harassment claim filed by Sgt. Julius Wilcox.

The memo, sent Wednesday, said the bill had yet to be sent, but was expected to be $12,150. Mayor Chuck Shaheen authorized the investigation, but cannot authorize anything for more than $2,500 without council approval. The city’s insurance provider will pay for $9,112.50 of the investigation, and Elliott has said he intends to pay $537.50, the amount over the mayor’s spending limit.

“Please allow me to explain: At the onset of the process, no one — myself or Ms. Keaton — believed that the investigation would take more than a couple of days,” Elliott wrote. “A $500 mistake is one I’m willing to accept for a city that has given much to my family and me.”

Shaheen said it was well after Elliott suggested the city hire an outside investigator that they were informed the bill would exceed the spending limit.

“I trusted Jim Elliott’s judgment from the very beginning,” Shaheen said when reached by phone Wednesday, also mentioning Elliott’s decision to pay the remaining balance “solidifies my trust in the expertise of our city attorney.”

Councilman Tom Simms Jr., when reached Wednesday, declined to comment on the situation, saying the initial investigation was related to a personnel matter.

Keaton suggested, in a report she sent to the city in July, that claims of harassment alleged by Wilcox not be further investigated.

She did, however, write that several members of the Warner Robins Police Department, including Chief Brett Evans, violated the city’s ordinance about political activities. That allegation, as well as mentioning that the police department’s promotions process was flawed, led Mayor Chuck Shaheen to suspend Evans for seven days without pay last month. That suspension was eventually cut to two days by a council vote.

To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.