EFFINGHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - The city of Guyton placed its interim public safety director and a police officer on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
An investigation into Interim Public Safety Director Stacy Strickland and Guyton Police Officer Michael Clarke started Monday, according to Effingham County Public Information Officer Gena Sullivan, and both were placed on leave Monday.
"It was a surprise," Joey Turner, the attorney representing Strickland, said. "He called me yesterday morning. Apparently, they showed up and told him that he was suspended immediately, needed to leave."
Turner submitted a formal letter of rebuttal to the city, saying in part, Strickland "unequivocally denies any wrongdoing in this or any other matter."
Turner said he is still working to gather documentation and details about what sparked the city's investigation and Strickland's suspension. He said the allegations involving Strickland aren't criminal and at this point, he believes they stem from an administrative issue involving Clarke.
"My understanding is that there was something involving another officer there," Turner said. "Again, we'll get more of the details, but my understanding is that my client did investigate it very thoroughly. Evidently, the city took issue with that, so obviously we'll figure that out. But at this point, I'm trying to gather the facts on that. It's nothing criminal. There's nothing criminal involving Stacy Strickland."
Guyton Mayor Jeff Lariscy said he couldn't comment on the investigation or what caused it, but Turner said he thinks the issue leading to the investigation happened recently.
"My understanding is it's pretty recent," Turner said. "I would say within the last 30 days, apparently, this came up, some issue with this other officer. Obviously, Captain Strickland is the head, so it's his job to have to try to watch."
Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie has agreed to act as Interim Chief of the Guyton Police Department until the investigation is over, and Lariscy said the sheriff's office is handling the investigation.
Turner said his next step is figuring out exactly what happened and hopefully ending this investigation with Strickland back in his job.
"[This is] somebody who took over when the city needed him," Turner said. "He took over in an interim role until they could find somebody, so it's shocking. There's no factual basis for it, so we're hoping to get the facts, prove his innocence."
Turner said he wants the investigation to end amicably with Guyton before any legal action is needed.