Just a couple of months after adopting it, Decatur County commisisoners’ policy detailing under which situations they would pay for county employees’ legal expenses is already being tested.
In August, Decatur County commisisoners adopted that policy after voting to pay for the legal expenses of three out of four Decatur County Sheriff’s deputies who were indicted on federal charges related to an incident at the 2012 Bainbridge Bikefest. (County commissioners agreed to pay for the legal expenses of Decatur County deputies Liz Croley, Wade Umbach and Chris Kines, but declined to pay for the legal fees of Wiley Griffin IV, who was employed by the Grady County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the incident.)
The charges are related to Sheriff’s deputies’ treatment of Aaron Parrish, a Bainbridge man, during a disturbance at Bikefest. Parrish has also filed a civil lawsuit against multiple parties, including Sheriff Wiley Griffin and Decatur County commissioners.
At their Tuesday morning meeting, Decatur County commissioners were set to vote on whether to approve a former county employee’s legal expenses.
On Sept. 22, Bainbridge attorney Jami Lewis had sent county commissioners an invoice for $5,000 to cover her legal representation of Rachel Trolinger, a former administrative assistant the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office.
Trolinger worked at the Sheriff’s Office between June 2010 and June of 2014. On September 16, she was arrested on a warrant filed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, on the charge of first degree forgery. According to the warrant, the associated incident happened in September 2013.
According to Attorney Lewis, the accusation against Trolinger is related to something that happened while she was performing the duties of her job. According to records sent by the Sheriff’s Office to County Attorney Brown Moseley, including the warrant issued by the Magistrate Court, the accusation is related to Trolinger’s processing of a criminal background check.
When the agenda item related to Lewis’ invoice came up during Tuesday’s meeting, Board of Commissioners chairman Frank Loeffler said he personally did not believe that commissioners should pay for the invoice, adding he believed Trolinger’s case was “completely different” from the case of the four Sheriff’s deputies.
Loeffler referred to an Oct. 13 letter from Sheriff Griffin to County Attorney Moseley, in which the Sheriff described the timeline of what led to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation investigating Trolinger and subsequently charging her with a crime.
Allowed to address commissioners, Lewis said Trolinger resigned from the Sheriff’s Office earlier this summer “for unrelated reasons.”
Commissioner Oliver Sellers and Commissioner Butch Mosely both suggested that commissioner’s vote on whether to pay Trolinger’s invoice be tabled until a later date, in order to allow commissioners to get more information on the matter.
“Right now, we don’t know which letter is accurate, Ms. Lewis’ or the Sheriff’s – we need more information,” Loeffler said.
Here is the full text of the resolution Decatur County commissioners adopted on August 26, 2014:
Resolution of the Decatur County Commission
Re: Defense of County Personnel
WHEREAS, Decatur County has a workforce of county employees engaged in numerous and various endeavors in order to provide services to county residents, and
WHEREAS, from time-to-time county employees are confronted with legal issues or claims arising out of the performance of their official duties, and
WHEREAS, legal claims or suits involving county employees must be answered and defended in hearings our courts of law having jurisdiction of said matter, and
WHEREAS, O.C.G.A. 45-9-21 authorizes counties to adopt policies to defend actions brought against county officials or employes arising out of the performance of their duties.
NOW THEREFORE, Be it resolved that as part of the terms of employment of members of the governing body of Decatur County and supervisors, administrators, employees and other elected or appointed officers, Decatur County will undertake to defend, in its discretion, civil, criminal or quasi criminal actions brought against any commissioner, supervisor, administrator, employee or other elected or appointed officers, arising out of the performance of their duties or in any way connected therewith, whether based upon negligence, violation of civil, constitutional, common law or statutory rights whenever authorized by law.
This 26th day of August, 2014
Decatur County Commission
Frank Loeffler, Chairman