Brooklet’s city clerk was unable to provide a full set of records requested this week by the Statesboro Herald because several files are allegedly missing.
Among other documents requested through the Freedom of Information Act, the Herald asked for copies of all complaints against former Brooklet police Chief Doug Meyer.
The request follows coverage by the Statesboro Herald and other media regarding Meyer’s resignation in February.
The resignation came after incidents in which a woman posted Facebook videos of encounters with Meyer and former police Sgt. John Baker showing angry verbal exchanges and behavior she — and eventually Brooklet City Council members — deemed unprofessional and unacceptable.
After the issue surfaced, council members first supported Baker and Meyer, stating they did nothing wrong, but later, council voted to terminate Baker and suspend another officer, and had a meeting with Meyer during which he submitted his resignation.
When the Statesboro Herald recently requested, among other documents, copies of all complaints against Meyer, Brooklet City Clerk Angela Wirth said the documents were unavailable, with the exception of one, which she emailed. The complaint was not dated and did not list a specific officer’s name. It addressed an incident in which an officer allegedly yelled at a driver while telling her to go ahead and make a turn.
When questioned, Wirth first said that was the only complaint that could be located. In a response to a second question about the complaints, she said in an e-mailed reply, “We have only located three that was in the chief’s (Meyer’s) office and that is it.”
The other two complaints were not produced.
When asked Thursday to clarify, Wirth said in a telephone conversation with the Herald that all complaints against police, including those against the former chief, were “given to Meyer.”
“The chief was the holder of the records, not us,” she said.
Since then, the policy regarding police department complaints has been changed, with the complaints now being copied by the police clerk and copies given to the two councilmen who oversee the police department, Greg Schlierff and Bill Griffith, she said.
While Schlierff did not immediately respond Thursday to messages asking about the allegedly missing documents, Griffith and Brooklet Mayor William Hendrix each denied knowledge of what may have happened to the records.
“I don’t keep the records,” Griffith said. “I presently do not know.”
He said the new policy will prevent the loss of future documents.
Hendrix said he believes Meyer took the complaints, but Meyer denied the accusation.
“He had a bunch of that stuff (records and police documents) with him when he left,” Hendrix said. “That’s not right. I don’t know what happened to the (complaint) forms. (Meyer) should have been putting them where it should have been put, and this is being investigated.”
Meyer said there were more items missing before he left — “guns, files, internal affairs files, body camera (footage)”— but he denied taking anything, “not even a paper clip.”
Meyer said he took nothing that was not his.
“I absolutely deny (the allegations). Everything was left there,” he said.
He said he is willing to take a polygraph test to prove his innocence.
“Everything was left, from paper clips to paper. Everything that belongs to the city, I left,” he said. “It would have been stunningly foolish of me to have even taken one paper clip. Why would I want to hide anything?”
He said Wirth contacted him to ask about the files and he told her he did not take them.
In covering the complaint issue with Cindy Lee Boddiford, the woman who posted videos on Facebook showing encounters with Meyer and Baker, the Statesboro Herald spoke with others regarding complaints against the Brooklet Police Department, including one man who said he was harassed during a traffic stop and another man who said he was mistreated while trying to access his business during the annual Brooklet Peanut Festival parade last year. Each man asked to remain anonymous due to litigation.
Other media sources, upon requesting body cam videos and other documents, reported several complaint issues, including one incident in which Meyer allegedly threatened to have a driver fired. Meyer admitted he did so during a telephone interview with the Statesboro Herald Tuesday, but he said “there is more to the story” and that his comments were justified.
An internal investigation into departmental conflicts regarding Meyer and Baker continues, Hendrix said.
Brooklet City Council is currently seeking applicants for the position of police chief, having restarted the search after a first attempt that reportedly did not produce a candidate that met all the councilmen’s standards.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.