Albany firefighter requests investigation into polygraphs

ALBANY, Ga. -- An Albany firefighter is asking the Dougherty County administrator to call for an investigation by an independent agency regarding a polygraph examination the firefighter and a co-worker submitted to last year as part of an investigation by the Albany Fire Department. The exams were conducted by the Dougherty County Police Department.

Lt. Roderick Jolivette wrote the letter, dated May 18, to County Administrator Richard Crowdis. Jolivette is asking Crowdis to have an agency outside of the county that is unaffiliated with the public safety agencies in Albany and Dougherty to review an exam conducted in April 2009 when William C. Smith Jr., then with the Dougherty County Police Department, polygraphed Jolivette and Battalion Chief Matthew Jefferson at the request of the Albany Fire Department.

At the time, the fire department was investigating allegations that fire department property, employees and resources were misused.

Jolivette recently filed a federal suit against AFD Chief James Carswell and the city of Albany, contending he was unfairly retaliated against and that his rights were violated after he raised concerns about the promotion of Deputy Chief Ron Rowe.

In the letter to Crowdis, Jolivette contends that he received unfair and unlawful treatment while being polygraphed and that he was treated differently than Jefferson.

In a highlighted portion of the letter, Jolivette writes: "I feel that because of my race and the fact that I complained of unlawful practices at the fire department, this effected the unlawful treatment I received. I was treated differently than the fire department employee who did not complain of unlawful practices at the fire department."

He states that there was a question on the exam to which he and Jefferson both had the same negative response, yet only Jolivette's answer was marked as deceptive. He also stated that Jefferson answered "yes" and "no" to a question that was posed twice to Jefferson on the polygraph exam.

Other bullet points Jolivette made regarding the fairness of the exams noted that his was videotaped while Jefferson's wasn't; that two different versions of Smith's evaluation of Jefferson's exam were sent to the fire department with a request that the first version showing no deception on Jefferson's part be shredded and replaced by an updated report stating his exam was inconclusive; that he was emotionally drained and wept in front of the examiner; that he was on blood pressure medication, and that the main concern of whether he asked Jefferson for a "mop and squeegee only" was not addressed.

Jolivette said in the bulleted points that he was "charged unfairly and scolded" for seeking open records and that because the fire department failed to shred the initial report on Jefferson's exam, that result was given to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was the basis for an April 28, 2009, article in The Albany Herald that stated the polygraph examiner had found Jefferson to be truthful in his responses.

Crowdis said that he had received a letter from Jolivette and that he had forwarded it to County Attorney Spencer Lee because it appeared to be a legal matter.

Lee said Monday that he had reviewed the letter and said that he was currently mulling what course of action to take, but would likely be in further correspondence with Jolivette regarding the matter.

A letter dated April 15, 2009, obtained by The Herald through an Open Records request to the Dougherty County Police Department earlier this month states that Carswell requested that Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek assist the AFD in the department's investigation of allegations of possible misuse of government property earlier that year.

In a response to an April 24, 2009, Open Records request The Herald made to the city of Albany in connection to the ongoing investigation involving Jolivette, city officials provided, among other things, two e-mails -- both dated April 17, 2009 -- from the county police indicating the results of the polygraph.

One of the e-mails reported that "responses indicative of deception were noted" on Jolivette's exam and "were not" noted on Jefferson's.

Those two e-mails were forwarded to Assistant City Attorney Kathy Strang, Chief James Carswell and Deputy Chief Ron Rowe at 8:54 a.m. April 17, 2009, by Investigator Sam Harris who had received them from Smith, the polygrapher at DCP, at 12:19 a.m. on April 17.

But records The Herald obtained from the Dougherty County Police earlier this month show that Smith sent a follow-up e-mail to Harris at 5:17 p.m. on April 17, 2009 -- a week before the newspaper's initial Open Record request -- in which Smith says that Jefferson's answers to the polygraph were "inconclusive" rather than "not deceptive," and Smith asks Harris to shred the initial report on Jefferson.

Jolivette's report stayed the same, the e-mail states.

The documents provided to The Herald in response to its April 24, 2009, request, contained the inaccurate first report on Jefferson and the corrected report was never released.

City officials say that if an error was made, they'll take steps to correct it.

"If there is some indication that we may have committed some type of error in getting out the right documents, then that's something we'll look into to try and keep it from happening in the future," Assistant City Manager Wes Smith said. "We certainly strive to get documents out accurately and in a timely fashion."

Carswell, who is named as a defendant in Jolivette's federal suit, said he couldn't comment on personnel or pending litigation matters.

From the county end, Jolivette writes: "I have listed only a few of the major problems and I would like for an official outside investigation to be conducted to address my concerns. I am a tax paying citizen of Dougherty County and I feel that my constitutional rights were violated because I complained of unfair practices at the Albany Fire Department, who work closely with the Dougherty County Police Department."