SAVANNAH, GA – Chatham county commissioners are at odds again over the Metro police merger agreement. News 3 reported two weeks ago commissioners voted to de-merge and stop negotiations with the city.
The city is still pushing for a compromise as it rushed to approve an older version of the county approved agreement to maintain a merged SCMPD.
Commission chairman Al Scott vetoed the vote, but commissioners say that will not stop them from moving forward with the break up. Commissioners say they will not seek to renew the contract with the city and once it reaches its spring deadline, unincorporated Chatham county residents will need a separate police force.
“We are coming to an end on this merger, the veto was pointless that’s why I had no problem not opposing the veto because instructions have been made very clear and we will be de-merging in six months,” says county commissioner Dean Kicklighter who represents a portion of unincorporated Chatham County.
Commissioner’s voted in October to immediately end negotiations to keep a merged police department with the city of Savannah. The chairman’s veto this week voids it, however it doesn’t void the feelings of commissioners.
“I think the commission can better represent the unincorporated areas needs and give the city what it wants in a different contract that’s been offered,” says commissioner Tony Center who’s district predominantly sits in metro Savannah.
Chairman Al Scott’s veto comes after the city approved a county version of the merger contract. A move he believes seals the agreement. Commissioner Tony Center says the city’s effort was useless under state law.
“The city came back six days later and said ‘oops we change our mind, we’ll vote for the September 11th offer’ it’s too late under Georgia law it’s been nullified it doesn’t exist and you can’t breathe life back into it,” says Center.
He adds that, moving forward, the commission had a majority vote to withdraw from negotiations with the city and that they plan to do so until March 31st when the contract ends, but the chairman believes a lot can happen between now and then.
“The attorney’s will advise us if we need to take any further action to actually have a working agreement with the city on the police merger and if we need further action by this commission I will put it on the agenda at the next meeting,” says Scott.
News 3 has obtained information from the county that county attorney Jon Hart agreed with the claims of commissioner Center. That means according to Georgia law, Savannah city council members voted to approve an agreement that was already nullified, no longer belonging to the county commission. Therefore, what the city approved hours following the de-merge vote by the commission, is now considered the city’s form of the agreement. Attorney Hart has advised the commission if they want to remain in contract negotiations with the city, that the agreement city leaders approved will have to go to vote at the next county commission meeting.