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County fires rec department director
Michael Rollins facing accusations of improper conduct
rollins
Michael Rollins

Two recently reported accusations of suspicious behavior, followed by other similar reports of lewd and inappropriate comments and acts, led to the termination Wednesday of Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Director Mike Rollins.

Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch, Commission Chairman Roy Thompson and other county staff met with Rollins around 3 p.m. Wednesday, following his earlier suspension after victims filed two consecutive reports Sept. 19 with Statesboro police.

During that meeting, Couch presented Rollins, 62, with a termination letter citing the two reported incidents as well as other complaints.

According to documents from Rollins’ personnel file, provided to the Statesboro Herald after an open records request, Rollins has a history of similar complaints about his behavior, stemming as far back as 2014 and including a previous unpaid two-week suspension for unacceptable conduct.

On Sept. 19, around 11:15 a.m., two women told police they were at Mill Creek Regional Park, loading their children into their vehicles after a recreational outing. They said a man with white hair, in a white F150 with county government plates, followed them, circling around their vehicles and blocking one of them in. Then, the man, later identified as Rollins, parked nearby and watched them, they said.

When police arrived at the scene they spotted Rollins and questioned him, according to police reports, bodycam and dash cam video provided to the Herald by the City of Statesboro after an open records request. Rollins is heard on video, as well as listed in reports telling police he found the two women with children suspicious and was attempting to “deter drug activity.”

But less than two hours later, Rollins was caught on video at Enmarket on Northside Drive West, where a woman accused him of making sexually suggestive comments.

The victim told Statesboro Police Officer I.O. Francoise, who was the same one who had responded to the Mill Creek incident, that Rollins made a lascivious comment to her about his physical arousal and invited her to make contact with parts of his body.

Reports and video accounts of police interviews with that victim reveal Rollins backed his vehicle up and further attempted to associate with the woman, who then snapped a photo of his truck and the county tag. She later posted the photo, along with her account of what happened, on social media.

 

Other reported encounters, disciplinary action

 

After police and Bulloch County officials were informed of the two Sept. 19 incidents, others came forward with similar complaints against Rollins. Some contacted the Statesboro Herald, some contacted Bulloch County government authorities and others made comments on the Enmarket victim’s social media post.

Couch said he and other county staff began investigating the allegations, some of which came from county employees.

Documents from Rollins’ personnel file refer to incidents as far back as 2014, when he was reprimanded for similar behavior and warned of possible termination.

Rollins was officially reprimanded again for an Oct. 3, 2017 incident where three female county employees filed complaints about his “touching … staring … and inappropriate comments,” the personnel file documents showed. The reprimand filed then stated the victims felt uncomfortable and said the physical contact and other attention was “unwanted.”  At that time, Rollins was also warned not to retaliate, intimidate or further harass the victims or any other female employee, according to the files, which also referred to the 2014 incident.

A year later, Rollins was suspended without pay in October 2018, following reports and evidence of his sending nine county employees an email to their county email addresses, from his personal email account, which included a video “with inappropriate content … profanity and images that were lewd and disturbing.”  Rollins refused to sign his suspension notice, but sent Couch a letter requesting the suspension be shortened. It was not.

Following the most recent reports that were made public through news and social media coverage, still more alleged victims came forth, Couch said, referring to these in the Sept. 25 termination memo given to Rollins.

He stated in the memo that a woman told county staff that Rollins, after a casual conversation with him at Splash in the Boro, harassed her by phone and texts, as well as approaching her at the same Enmarket store. She said he asked her to meet him at the park to pick up some Splash in the Boro tee shirts he was giving her children.

She refused when he tried to get her to go alone into a building with him, and said he ended up giving her some shirts that were not what he promised, according to Couch’s account of the woman’s statements. The woman told Couch she was so upset by Rollins’ acts she was on the verge of filing a restraining order.

Another county employee told Couch she was at the same Enmarket convenience store Sept. 17 when Rollins waited on her to exit the store and then called from the passenger side of his county truck, stating “how good she looked in her clothes” and making her feel uncomfortable, Couch stated in the memo.

The memo accused Rollins of “serious misconduct including engaging in discrediting and offensive behavior while using county time and resources” as well as “misrepresenting your role in the incident at the convenience store.”

This referred to Rollins’ denial of the Sept. 19 Enmarket incident, where he claimed the victim flashed a finger gesture at him and he returned the gesture. Store video shows that did not happen, but did record evidence supporting the victim’s claim.

Rollins told the Statesboro Herald in a telephone conversation Tuesday he had never seen that victim and would never say anything lewd to a person.

In the termination memo, Couch said Rollins violated several county policies, involving “sexual harassment, professional conduct, inappropriate conduct, and immoral conduct.” Rollins was terminated “effective immediately” upon being given the memo.

Couch said considerations are being made regarding the selection of someone to serve as interim director.

As of Wednesday, no criminal charges had been filed against Rollins.

 

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at 912-489-9414.

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