Rincon Police Chief Mike Bohannon was fired Thursday morning, just two days after being placed on administrative leave.
Interim city manager Wesley Corbitt met with Bohannon early Thursday morning and relieved him of his duties. In a statement, Corbitt said he offered Bohannon the chance to resign and when the chief declined to do so, he fired him.
"Recently I met with Chief Bohannon to discuss the management philosophy that I believed was important to our pursuit of excellence in all city departments," Corbitt said. "A part of that conversation included his management conduct when dealing with his staff, (s)pecifically with his temperament which included excessive anger and demeaning language when dealing with his staff. Because of these management deficiencies, Chief Bohannon was unable to receive adequate communication from his staff crucial for making appropriate decisions and as a result could have caused great harm for the city of Rincon."
Bohannon was unavailable for comment Thursday and calls to his cell phone went directly to his voicemail. He posted on his Facebook page, "I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming support you have showed me. I have always treated people the way I would want to be treated and always tried to give to the community. … I can look in the mirror at night and say you did right."
Bohannon was hired in February 2009 to replace Michael Berry, who had been fired in September 2008 after less than six months on the job. Bohannon previously served with the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office for 12 years, leaving there with the rank of captain. He also worked with the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.
Sgt. Philip Scholl has been selected to run the department while the search for a new chief ensues. At the time of his hiring, Bohannon was the third chief for the Rincon Police Department in less than a year.
At full staff, the department has 16 uniformed personnel but is down to 13.
In his statement Thursday, Corbitt said Bohannon’s "decisions that have been detrimental to the city" include neglecting to call for a timely internal affairs investigation regarding information that a Rincon police officer was involved in conduct unbecoming of an officer; failure to communicate with appropriate personnel regarding a possible criminal activity and not communicating with the local drug enforcement agency for support; and that during his tenure with the city, the department has lost 24 members of the staff, consisting of 17 positions, excluding that of chief.
"These examples are not to be considered exhaustive of the chief’s failed management practices," Corbitt said.
Rincon City Council members met in executive session for two hours Wednesday night, and though they took no action from any discussions behind closed doors, it was clear the topic was Chief Bohannon and the police department. Corbitt also read a prepared statement to the news media following the meeting.
"Recently, it was determined that management style and philosophy of our current leadership in the Rincon Police Department was not cooperative with the direction of the city management, including the city council, and where we wanted to go," he said.
Two Rincon Police officers have resigned recently, and Corbitt said Bohannon’s management style was partly responsible for their leaving.
"There were management decisions by our chief that failed to promote and support the standards of excellence of our city," Corbitt said. "I personally believe his recent management decisions caused hurt to our department’s morale and integrity. These are two of the standards I believe are crucial to effective law enforcement."
Corbitt said the city currently is not conducting an investigation into the two officers who left the department but other agencies may be looking into their actions.
"Our internal investigation has led to the resignation of those officers as we discovered conduct unbecoming of a police officer, which they have admitted to," he said. "I cannot address the conduct because there is presently another law enforcement agency’s ongoing criminal investigation. We are not involved in one, but others, I understand, are."
Prior to placing Bohannon on administrative leave, Corbitt said he asked the chief, in the presence of Mayor Ken Lee, what he was doing to address the situation of one of the officers in question.
"I was not satisfied with his answer," Corbitt said. "I asked him what he had done and what he was doing with the situation. I was not satisfied with that, and when we could not agree on the philosophy I felt I needed to put him on administrative leave so I could make decisions I think that now have proven to be helpful for the department."
Corbitt added he and Bohannon had a lengthy discussion recently about management philosophies that Corbitt believed were not conducive to officer morale.
"It really becomes a difference in philosophy of how we want to build our police department and communicate with our police department," he said. "I thought we were building upon that and working towards those ends. It’s the recent decisions he’s made that told me that perhaps we are not where we need to be in moving forward."
Corbitt charged that Bohannon’s decision could "greatly damage the integrity" of the police department.
"In light of this, he was placed on administrative leave, by me, so that we could continue to review his decision, his process for his decision but most importantly proceed with a direction that was in the best interest of our citizens and our city," Corbitt said Wednesday night. "I am more convinced today that decisions made at that time by myself and affirmed by our city council have proven to secure the integrity of our police department, promote our continuing pursuit for excellence and I hope has encouraged the morale of our officers."
Corbitt said his decision came with the backing of council members and also offered his support for Sgt. Scholl to run the department in the meantime.
"He’s more than qualified," Corbitt said. "We don’t think we’ll miss a beat."