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School Board may modify Whatley's request

ALBANY, Ga. -- During a 39-minute executive session meeting on June 14, the majority of the Dougherty County Board of Education were seeking to reduce the suspension without pay for DCSS Police Officer Keith Frazier from 35 days to 15 days, according to retiring School Board member Michael Windom.

Frazier, a 4 1/2-year officer on the DCSS force, was recommended to be terminated by school system Chief of Police Troy Conley April 21 because he allegedly failed to notify Conley of serious incidents/intelligence and for dereliction of duties as a law enforcement officer.

One of the most serious allegations against Frazier was from a bus driver who saw a student allegedly possessing a shotgun March 19 near an alley by the Merry Acres Middle School campus. This incident preceded several fights breaking out simultaneously between rival gangs West Side Boys and South Side Boys on April 9 at Merry Acres, where Frazier was assigned.

On Jan. 14, Conley gave Frazier a written reprimand after he failed to notify Conley of a student at Dougherty Middle School, where Frazier was assigned, getting "assaulted by his hair being set on fire." In Frazier's report, the victim complained that he "felt his scalp burning" and when he "touched his head some of his hair fell out."

The termination of Frazier was brought before the Dougherty County Board of Education at the May 26 board meeting, but it wasn't approved after it received a 3-1-3 vote. Board members Michael Windom, Emily Jean McAfee and David Maschke voted to terminate Frazier, Milton "June Bug" Griffin voted against it, and Anita Williams-Brown, James Bush and Velvet Riggins abstained.

The 35-day suspension of Frazier was one of Sally Whatley's last acts on her final day as superintendent on June 7. Whatley wrote a letter dated June 7 to Frazier explaining her rationale for the suspension.

During the June 14 executive session, board members were asked to support Whatley's 35-day recommendation, Windom said. Griffin, Williams-Brown, Bush and Riggins were seeking to recommend during the executive session to reduce Frazier's suspension to 15 days.

Windom also emphasized the request to reduce Frazier's suspension was an effort from "the board," not new school Supt. Joshua Murfree since he "just kind of inherited" the situation.

"But, the board has the latitude to modify any recommendation," said Windom, who has served since 1995. "That matter was to come back to the board for review and that was the decision was to reduce that (suspension) to 15 days. ... I would characterize it as being resolved, it just didn't have a public vote with it. It doesn't need one unless the chairman (David Maschke) thinks it needs one, because you can't vote in executive session. We'll try to have a consensus on what we should do because everyone will have an opinion on what to do.

"Murfree said everyone needs to be held accountable and that everyone needs to follow a chain of command," Windom added. "In actuality, that's what happened. Most recommendations for terminations come from the administration or the superintendent and the board usually accepts that or not, or modify that. You look at everything as a case-by-case basis."

Maschke said that he's spoken to DCSS Attorney Tommy Coleman about the situation.

"There are two options," Maschke said. "If the board wants to take action, it must do so by a public vote. The second option would be for the superintendent to override and revise the decision of the prior superintendent."

Bush, Williams-Brown and Griffin couldn't be reached late Monday for comment to explain why they requested reducing Frazier's suspension. Riggins said she would e-mail a statement to The Herald by 6:30 p.m. Monday night, but one had not arrived by 7:43 p.m.

Conley said he has been doing police work since 1986 and previously was employed for 20 years with the Dougherty County Police Department.

"I made the recommendation of 35 days suspension without pay and the board had some concerns, so they felt compelled to reduce my recommendation," Conley said to The Herald Monday night. "This the first time that I've had a disciplinary issue that went before the board."

Conley said Frazier has 14 years of law enforcement experience with about 10 of those with the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office. Conley also said that he regularly moves his officers around from school to school in the district.

"I make random shake-ups for various reasons," he said. "A lot of times, I'll do it three or four times during the school year. I like to do it. It keeps them from being stagnant."