Embattled Pendergrass Police Chief Rob Russell is being replaced, but will continue to serve as the town’s administrator.
"The mayor has decided to replace me in that (chief’s) position,” Russell said this week. “I will stay on as city administrator."
He said his salary will be changed, but he doesn't know how much yet. The town began advertising for a new police chief over the weekend. No city council meeting has been held on the move.
Russell also resigned last week as city attorney for the town of Nicholson.
In comments to the media when the scandal broke, Mayor Monk Tolbert said he stood behind Russell “100 percent.”
Russell is the central figure in allegations by three whistleblowers that Pendergrass officials had engaged in widespread corruption. The group presented evidence that accused Russell of having used the city credit card for personal items, of having fixed tickets as favors for certain people and knowingly misusing taxpayer SPLOST funds for items that didn’t qualify for SPLOST spending.
Just three weeks ago, Mayor Tolbert fired four people, saying the city has serious financial problems. Two of the whistleblowers claim the firings were really in retaliation for their having gathered evidence of wrongdoing in the town.
Since the firings, the city has hired back a former policewoman who had a sexual harassment lawsuit pending against Pendergrass. That lawsuit was quickly settled by the mayor after he received the whistleblowers’ evidence. He setted the case for $20,000 in attorney fees and the rehiring of Becky Davis for three years. The mayor settled the lawsuit without any city council vote.
The hiring a new chief of police would be the second full-time position filled since the firings. The city clerk’s job remains open and will also have to be filled by a certified person at some point.
For complete coverage of the Pendergrass allegations, see the August 19 issue of The Jackson Herald.