published Friday, November 16th, 2012

Chatsworth, Ga., ex-detective Jim Whitehead challenges his firing

A former Chatsworth, Ga., police detective wants to be heard on why he was fired twice, first on allegations of inappropriate contact and then for budget cuts.

Chatsworth Attorney Steve Williams confirmed that veteran officer Jim Whitehead was given notice Nov. 2 that he was being let go for alleged inappropriate contact with another officer's wife.

But that notice was taken back, and he received a second notice saying he was being cut because of budget constraints.

Neither a Chatsworth councilman nor the mayor could give a date when it was decided that Whitehead's job should be cut. And Mayor Dan Penland and City Councilman Wayne Graves acknowledged that the budget for the next fiscal year isn't complete and won't be read aloud in a public meeting for two weeks.

When asked why Whitehead was cut before the budget was voted on, Graves became angry and said to ask the department head.

Police Chief Terry Martin declined to comment except to say, "Everybody is getting it all messed up." He was referring to an article published in another news source that quotes Martin saying Whitehead was fired for "personnel problems."

Whitehead could not be reached Thursday for comment.

Penland said there was miscommunication in the first notice. But he said he was out of town when Whitehead was fired and didn't know what happened.

Because Whitehead's final termination was blamed on budget cuts, he doesn't have the right to appeal his firing, Williams said. But the police commission, made up of three of the four Chatsworth City Council members, will listen to his complaint Nov. 26. That's the same day the council will read the budget.

After the notice was changed, Whitehead became eligible for unemployment, Williams said. If he had been fired for inappropriate behavior, he likely wouldn't have been granted unemployment benefits, Williams said.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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