Chatham County Commission investigates former coroner's spending - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Former Chatham Co. coroner's spending under investigation

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) -

The Chatham County Commission launched an investigation into former Coroner James Metts Jr.'s spending before he abruptly resigned Dec. 14, according to documents obtained by WTOC under the Georgia Open Records Act.

"You have the very real potenital of numerous serious felonies committed by person or persons in a high semi Law Enforcement (sic) position/positions," Chatham County Commissioner and former Savannah Police Chief David Gellatly wrote in a Nov. 11 email.

That email was sent to County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis and County Manager Russ Abolt.

"The two of you, along with the County Attorney and your Auditor need to meet with the FBI as soon as possible," Gellatly wrote. "You should have no further contact with anyone affiliated with the Office (sic) in question."

Gellatly cautioned Liakakis and Abolt that, "person or persons in that office will deny everything and may lawyer-up."

"Think with your head not your heart," he advised, and offered to accompany Liakakis and Abolt to the FBI's office.

Agent Stephen Emmett, the FBI's spokesman in Atlanta, on Sunday declined to say whether the bureau is investigating Metts.

On Dec. 18, WTOC requested a copy of the county's audit of the coroner's office under the state's Open Records Act and the station still is waiting for those documents. Abolt launched the audit in a June fax the county's interium audit director, Roy Hinley, and asked Hinely to look into reimbursements Metts had been getting to pay for an office secretary. Abolt wrote that he believed the deputy coroner, Sara Smith, was receiving the secretary reimbursement in addition to her county salary.

Reached by phone Sunday, Smith declined to comment on the investigation. She remains deputy coroner.

Metts, 82, had been Chatham County's coroner for more than 40 years and gave his age and "personal circumstances" as his reasons for resigning "effective immedately." He could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Commissioner Patrick Shay said, "He's had a very long successful career as a public servant, but as of late, made some very very bad decisions, and he's not above the law." 

Dr. William Wessinger, a professor of surgery at Mercer School of Medicine and former Memorial Health Vice President for Medical Affairs has been appointed to replace Metts as coroner. He will serve until the next general election.

Copyright 2012 WTOC. All rights reserved.

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