DeKalb CEO Ellis fires Police Chief Bolton |

Updated: 7:32 p.m. February 23, 2009

DeKalb CEO Ellis fires Police Chief Bolton
Firing will set off appeal, possibly a court battle

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Monday, February 23, 2009

DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis fired police chief Terrell Bolton on Monday, ending Bolton’s sometimes stormy two-year tenure but possibly setting off lengthy administrative and legal battles.

Ellis sent a termination letter to Bolton echoing allegations made in a “pre-termination letter” he issued Friday. That letter accused the chief of insubordination, misuse of county property and acts unbecoming an officer.

The firing will set off a merit system appeal and possibly a court battle. Ellis said he was confident the county would win any legal battle resulting from the firing. “We feel comfortable that we have sound reasons upon which to terminate him,” Ellis said.

Reached by phone Monday night, Bolton said, “Today’s actions by CEO Ellis reflect his premeditated spirit, unreasonableness and general disrespect towards my leadership since I arrived as police chief.”

Bolton started work in January 2007 after being hired by Jones, who selected him over three finalists recommended by a selection committee. Bolton had been fired as Dallas police chief in 2003, but Jones said he was satisfied Bolton was a victim of politics there. BS - he was fired because he was a bumbling clown, promoted his cronies, and demoted his non-cronies.

“I am proud of my record,” Bolton said. He cited a steep reduction in fatal shootings of suspects, small decreases in crime statistics in 2008, creation of a community policing unit and the recent County Commission approval of buying a Taser stun gun for every field officer.

Bolton recently was diagnosed with diabetes and had requested a two-week medical leave to receive treatment at his family home in Texas.

“I’m working hard to get my health back in order, and I look forward to being vindicated. And CEO Ellis will answer for this unlawful termination,” he said.

Bolton became a political presence in DeKalb, trading jabs with county commissioners when they balked at a sweeping police expansion plan which Bolton pushed with Jones’ backing.

In his “pre-termination” letter last week, Ellis detailed allegations against Bolton, including that he gave a badge to a civilian employee, took home seized vehicles and contradicted the CEO during a police cadet graduation ceremony.

Bolton’s attorney, Bill McKenney, sent Ellis a letter Monday repeating Bolton’s denials and criticizing Ellis for “a pattern of obstruction which has prevented Chief Bolton from defending his position, career and reputation.”

McKenney has said Bolton will file a merit system appeal and will sue in federal court if necessary.

Bolton was on medical leave in early February and was diagnosed as an insulin-dependent diabetic. When he returned Feb. 9, Ellis placed him on a two-week administrative leave.

Last Thursday, McKenney said, he sent Ellis a letter and medical documentation that Bolton had returned to his family home in Texas for medical testing and needed an additional two weeks of sick leave.

McKenney said the leave falls under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

“Chief Bolton has federally protected rights afforded to him under the Act and you are cautioned not to take any action regarding his employment status while under said medical leave,” McKenney’s letter said.

Ellis said William O’Brien, whom Ellis appointed acting chief after he placed Bolton on administrative leave, will remain acting chief. Ellis would not say how he would pick a permanent chief.