Lott upholds termination for 911 operator, accepts resignation of another

Alfred Lott

Alfred Lott

ALBANY, Ga. -- Albany City Manager Alfred Lott has upheld the termination of one 911 dispatcher and accepted the resignation of another following termination hearings Monday.

LaToya Smith and Jeanita Fulmore were each given notice of termination Sept. 7 by Albany Fire Chief James Carswell after accusations surfaced that the two had improperly -- and possibly illegally -- performed background checks on civilians using the Georgia Crime Information Computer and the Criminal Justice Information System without authorization.

While both initially admitted to improperly using the system according to their termination letters, both requested a termination appeal hearing with Lott Monday.

Following her hearing Monday, Fulmore tendered her resignation, and Lott upheld Carswell's termination of Smith Wednesday.

Meanwhile, 911 officials continue to review computer records in an ongoing probe of any misuse of the 911 computer system. The Herald has learned that two additional 911 operators will be interviewed today in connection with a breach in the system.

Lott said Wednesday that law enforcement officials, including the district attorney's office, were notified of Smith's and Fulmore's activities as soon as they came to light, but the city manager stopped short of saying if there was an active criminal investigation.

"If there is a criminal allegation or investigation here, it will run separately of our internal personnel review," Lott said. "But law enforcement was consulted and notified and continues to be."

Attempts to reach Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards were unsuccessful Wednesday.

While Smith may have violated her oath as a state-certified 911 dispatcher, the implications and accusations surrounding Fulmore appear much more ominous.

According to her termination letter, an unidentified woman who was being interviewed by detectives with the Albany Police Department in connection with the July robbery of the Dollar General Store that left one suspect injured after he was shot by police, told investigators that Fulmore was known to check a person's criminal history and status to see if they were being eyed by law enforcement. The woman also told police that Fulmore was somehow loosely tied to her family through acquaintances.

Carswell, who oversees operations of the 911 communications center, refused to comment on any aspect of the Smith or Fulmore investigation saying only that it was a personnel issue and that there was an ongoing investigation.

But when asked more generally about screening procedures and hiring practices for 911 dispatchers, Carswell said that those employees go through much of the same hiring protocols and procedures as police officers and other law enforcement personnel.

"They have to submit their fingerprints to run through state and federal databases; they submit to full background checks; we run their credit information, and they have to take an 84-question polygraph," Carswell said. "It's a pretty rigorous screening process."

So rigorous that the department still has four vacancies yet to be filled because some who have applied simply haven't met qualifications.