Demorest - The City of Demorest has reached a stalemate that will be discussed Tuesday, April 28, after the Georgia Attorney General’s Office stated they would not be getting involved in the matter regarding the termination of Police Chief Robin Krockum.
The termination happened at approximately 1 p.m. on Thursday, April 16, according to Demorest Mayor Rick Austin. “I had dropped by the police department on my way to lunch and was having a conversation with Chief (Krockum) and Casey Chastain the assistant Chief,” Austin said. “Mrs. Simmonds came in the side door. She did not realize I was there and she was noticeably nervous and upset.”
Austin goes on to say he asked Simmonds, Demorest’s City Clerk/Manager, what was happening to which she responded, “I just need to keep my job,” according to Austin.
Austin went on to describe what happened next, saying “She (Simmonds) look at Robin Krockum and said, ‘I guess you know why I’m here’ and he goes ‘No ma’am I really don’t.” Simmonds then terminated Krockum.
“She said ‘you’re an at-will employee,’” Austin said. This comes after an off duty officer made remarks online regarding the city’s newly purchased trash bins. Simmonds wanted the officer reprimanded and Krockum reportedly refused.
However, Austin claims Simmonds stated that Krockum’s lack of action to reprimand his officer was only part of the reasoning behind his termination.
“This has been a long time coming,” Austin said quoting Simmonds.
Austin tells WCHM that after the incident he reached out to the City Attorney Joey Homans to challenge her authority. Simmonds did in fact have the authority to terminate Krockum. Her action to appoint former police chief Greg Ellingson was out of her authority. According to the charter, the city manager can only make nominations for the position and the council must confirm that in a vote.
After Hours Swearing-In
Just hours after Krockum was relieved from his job, a meeting was held after hours to swear in the interim police chief.
“That meeting was not announced to all of mayor and council,” Austin tells WCHM. “I had no knowledge it was occurring nor did councilman Sean Moore. I’m unsure as to any other councilmember that was present or was aware of it.”
Probate Judge Pam Wooley was called that night to swear in Ellingson. Wooley has not responded to WCHM’s request for comment.
Many throughout the community have taken to social media to express their voice on the situation. Among those voices is the Libertarian Party of Habersham County who has drafted a resolution A "to condemn the actions of The City Clerk of the City of Demorest and demanding the removal and/or resignation of the City Clerk, Kim Simonds."
Seth Benton, Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Habersham County tells WCHM, "I was just as shocked as many of the people were upon hearing the initial details and began to follow the story closely. As the information became more clear as to what had happened and how the chief was fired for his defense of one of his officers right to free speech, I decided to ask the opinion of the rest of the party and we decided it was best to let the city government know our feelings and our support of the peoples right to free speech no matter their position in the government, as well as to show the people of the city of Demorest and the county as a whole that they have an advocate of their rights in the Libertarian Party of Habersham County."
Benton goes on to describe what this resolution means. "We basically wanted the city government to know that people are watching these events take place and will remember them come election time. The citizens are looking for accountability in their town's leadership and do not appreciate government officials blatantly punishing its employees, or attempting to, for exercising their natural rights. We as libertarians, and myself personally, feel that the actions of the kind that resulted in Cheif Krockums firing and the actions in the immediate aftermath involving Mayor Austin are entirely unacceptable and that government officials that act in such a manner do not deserve to represent the people."
"Many people in the city of Demorest are upset and they will be taking their feelings to the ballot box," Benton said. "The best way to ensure accountability from our local government is to be vocal and involved in letting them know how we feel."
Read the full resolution here.
The Demorest City Council will discuss the situation Tuesday, April 28, in a teleconference meeting starting at 6 p.m.