Carswell fires two more 911 dispatchers

Photo by Tina Stein

Photo by Tina Stein

Albany, Ga.---Two more Albany E-911 dispatchers have been terminated in lieu of an appeal to City Manager Alfred Lott for allegedly misusing the state's criminal information database to look up confidential information on civilians, according to documents obtained by The Herald Monday.

In response to a request using Georgia's Open Records Act, the city turned over two letters of termination outlining why Jasmeny Ogletree and Natasha Hightower were recommended for termination by Albany Fire Chief James Carswell October 5.

In the letters, Carswell writes that both Ogletree and Hightower were interviewed by investigator Sam Harris on Sept. 30, and both admitted running unauthorized background checks and other searches on civilians.

In Hightower's letter, Carswell writes that an investigation into possible abuses of the Georgia Crime Information Computer system or GCIC and CJIS, the Criminal Justice Information System, revealed that she had allegedly had improper access to the system.

"Upon investigations conducted by this office into this situation, and by your own admission of having run unauthorized GCIC and local background checks, your employment with the City of Albany's Fire Department/9-1-1 Division is terminated effective immediately," he writes.

As for Ogletree, the language is similar, but Carswell states that, in addition to checking warrants and licenses on the system, Ogletree allegedly ran her own information to check her wanted status 10 days after an armed robbery.

"On September 30, 2010, you were interviewed by Investigator Sam Harris of the Albany Fire Department concerning allegations of misconduct on your behalf by misusing the Criminal Justice Information System as defined in Georgia Crime Information Center Council Rule 140-12-02," he writes. "You were found to have run yourself on the system approximately 10 days after an armed robbery occurred. You have also advised that you have run unauthorized checks on yourself, numerous times.

Both employees have the opportunity to appeal their termination to City Manager Alfred Lott. It wasn't immediately known if either had chosen to appeal their termination.

The decision to fire Ogletree and Hightower comes two weeks after two other dispatchers were recommended for termination for inappropriately accessing the same system.

LaToya Smith and Jeanita Fulmore were each summarily fired by Carswell September 7 in what turned out to be the first wave of allegations that 911 operators were misusing crime databases.

Both appealed their termination to Lott. After a termination hearing, Lott upheld the termination of Smith and accepted the resignation of Fulmore, who submitted her letter after the hearing.

City officials were tipped off to the possible misuse of the system when a person who was being interviewed by police in connection to the armed robbery of a dollar store earlier this summer reportedly told officers that there were certain people within 911 that would readily do background checks to see if someone was being scrutinized by police.

In addition to the personnel decisions, the investigation will now shift from an internal probe into one lead by the Dougherty District Attorney's office.

The Herald has learned that city officials will meet with investigators from the district attorney's office later this week. Since 911 dispatchers are certified through the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council, if it's found that operators did in fact access the system inappropriately, they could face charges of violation of oath of office which is a felony.

Additionally, The Herald has learned that the district attorney's office was reportedly notified of the investigations into all four individuals before initial action was taken on September 7.

Albany Fire Chief James Carswell declined to comment on the matter when asked Monday, citing personnel privacy concerns.