Doug Howell, who retired in the midst of an investigation in August 2006, returned Jan. 23 as a part-time training officer but not as police chief as many people speculated he would.
Howell said he is happy to be back after already working for the city for 17 years, and is confident that officials will dismiss allegations he was involved in falsifying documents for an honorary department certification when he was chief.
Im surprised that it hasnt been already from some of the dialog Ive had with the attor-ney generals office, he said.
Interim City Manager and City Attorney Ron Goulart said Howell will be paid $15 an hour up to 20 hours a week to give police officers specialized instruction as well as to use his National Safety Council certification to teach safety and drivers education courses for other city employees.
He still has his (police) certification, and, according to Doug, he talked to (investigators last week) and they wanted to interview a couple of additional witnesses that Doug had, Goulart said on Thursday. But as far as his certification, it is still valid.
Ryan Powell, director of operations for Georgia POST, said the POST council voted to re-voke Howells police officer certification, but the revocation was delayed because he ap-pealed the ruling. Powell said the attorney generals office was asked to handle the appeal as of Sept. 13, 2007.
Russ Willard, a spokesman for the attorney generals office, said, The case is still under review by office. He said he did not know when officials would render a decision.
Howell said he is confident the charges will be dismissed, but he declined to discuss de-tails until the case is resolved.
Howell, in a prepared statement he read before the Fort Oglethorpe City Council at an Oct. 8, 2007 meeting, said, I have never been investigated by the FBI, by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, have never been the subject of a criminal investigation and have never been decertified by the Georgia POST. I was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Police Offi-cers Standards and Training and by state assessor Rick Townsend.
Goulart and former Mayor Judd Burkhart testified at a POST hearing for Howell. There were no transcripts from the hearing in his file, but Powell said it is unlikely any were ever made.
Goulart said that although no state law or city ordinance requires a training officer be certified, he wants Howell to have police certification so he can also use him on patrol.
Howells arrival comes within a week of former chief Larry C. Blacks departure. Black took over as commander of the Lookout Mountain Drug Task force on Jan. 21. He received a six-month severance package and left on only a few days notice.
Howell said he had spoken with Goulart about coming back to work with the city, but he had no desire to return from retirement to a full-time job.
Several people including former council member Richard Egeland and at least three other individuals associated with city politics and the police department who asked to re-main anonymous have said they believed Goulart and council members Steve Brandon and Louis Hamm had wanted Black gone all along and hoped to bring Howell back as chief. They also said they believed newly elected council member Johnnie Red Smith, a friend of Howells who retired about the same time, had the same intentions.
Brandon, Hamm, Smith and Goulart have all said they did not conspire to oust Black.
As chief, Black investigated Howell along with others involved in the department certifi-cation process. Howell had already been demoted from chief to captain and training officer in April 2006 after then-city manager Jim Dinley said he refused to follow his orders.
Howell said he believed the real reason for his demotion was not dropping a speeding ticket given to the mayors wife. Dozens of supporters attended his appeal hearing. The council upheld Dinleys decision in a 3-2 vote.
Black was hired in May 2006. According to documents in Howells POST file, Black ques-tioned why paperwork for an audit of the evidence room was created in May 2005 and passed off as if it were made years earlier. Howell said he had nothing to do with falsifying docu-ments, according to interview transcripts in his file.
The paperwork was required as part of the honorary certification process for the de-partment.
When Black asked Howell to submit to a lie detector test, he agreed to do it as long as his attorney agreed too, according to a transcript of the conversation in Howells file. Howell, who had worked for Fort Oglethorpe since 1990, retired the next day and never took the polygraph.
That prompted POST to investigate him, records show. Howell has since publicly stated that he was not investigated for criminal wrongdoing and that he would take legal action against the next person who defames his name.
Since Howell is a part-time employee, he will keep his retirement earnings, Goulart said. He said Lt. Gary McConathy had been in charge of training, but Howells hiring will not af-fect his status or pay. Howell will have a flexible schedule and can come in on various shifts to train officers, Goulart said.
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