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Strickland notifies Guyton city manager that he is appealing termination

GUYTON  -- In a strongly worded statement from his attorney, Stacy Strickland has notified Guyton city officials that he is appealing his termination as interim public safety director.

Strickland was removed from the position Wednesday after a three-week investiation by the Effingham County Sheriff's Office into a matter involving Officer Michael Clark of the Guyton Police Department. Clark was placed on suspension Wednesday.

Late Wednesday, Joey Turner of The Turner Firm LLC sent an email to City Manager Tom Wirth that said in part, "At our meeting today, you provided us with a copy of a 'memorandum' laying out in the vaguest of terms the reasons why the City had decided to terminate Captain Strickland from his position as Interim Public Safety Director. We have now reviewed the memorandum and we disagree with all of its assertions. We will not accept the conclusions of this unfair and unlawful investigation. Please accept this as a formal Notice of Appeal. We demand that the issue of Captain Strickland’s termination be heard before the entire Guyton City Council as soon as possible, pursuant to the City of Guyton’s Charter and Personnel Policy."

Turner continued, "The conclusions reached in the City’s Memorandum are baseless and slanderous. You allege that Captain Strickland failed to respond to a complaint involving a fictitious Facebook page created by Officer Michael Clark. This is simply untrue. Captain Strickland investigated the issue thoroughly and handled the situation completely. You cite as evidence for this conclusion the “testimony of Michael Clark.” The fact that the testimony of the suspended Officer Clark was considered at all is puzzling. Such allegations would be laughed out of a court of law by both judge and jury without at least some corroboration."

Turner's letter mentions other accusations made against Strickland, who was placed on administrative leave June 25.

"The other allegations in your memorandum would be humorous if they were not so defamatory to Captain Strickland’s professional career," Turner said. "You allege that he was involved in criminal activity, to include extortion, assault, and even theft by taking. The examples of this alleged criminal activity (which of course are all based on unnamed witnesses) include that Captain Strickland consumed products at Parker’s convenience store without paying for them. This is not only false; it is slanderous. There is no evidence whatsoever to support these allegations, and the City’s assertions are made with obvious malice towards Captain Strickland and his long career in law enforcement. This misconduct on the City’s part cannot be allowed to stand."

Turner expressed surprise that some of the allegations against Strickland are criminal in nature.

"The way in which this investigation was conducted has violated my client’s constitutional rights," he said. "For three weeks, we have offered to meet with City officials and the law enforcement officers conducting the investigation. We were denied that opportunity.

"When at last Captain Strickland was asked to come and answer the allegations, there was limited notice given and I as his attorney was denied the right to accompany my client during the process. When I vehemently objected, I was told by City officials and representatives of the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office that the investigation was not criminal in nature and therefore my client did not have the right to counsel.

"You can imagine my surprise when we were presented with this memorandum that states that Captain Strickland was involved in criminal activity. Perhaps your office (and the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office) needs to examine the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the absolute right to counsel in criminal prosecutions. "

Turner then notified Wirth of Strickland's intent to appeal his termination and other legal action.

"Captain Strickland’s due process rights have been trampled," Turner said. "He was denied his right to counsel and the right to confront the evidence against him. We are still being denied the right to view the evidence that was gathered during this three-week ordeal.

"For these reasons, we formally appeal the decision to terminate Captain Strickland. Additionally, please let this correspondence serve as your notice that we will be pursuing legal action against the City of Guyton, the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, and other entities involved in this matter under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

"If your office persists in slandering Captain Strickland, we will seek a cease and desist order from the Superior Court of Effingham County."

Strickland had served as Guyton's public safety director on an interim basis since Kelphie Lundy was fired in February 2016.