January 9, 2014

DA: Former Chatsworth police chief’s actions ‘troubling’

Rachel Brown
rachelbrown@daltoncitizen.com

— Several of the recently ousted Chatsworth police chief’s actions were “troubling,” according to a letter from the district attorney.

Terry Martin — whom council members recently moved to another city job — urged 911 operators not to send a deputy to respond if anyone called about a confrontation between him and a woman under his surveillance as part of a private investigation, was dishonest with his officers and supervisors about his involvement in the investigation, and “use(d) his position as chief of police to influence the response” to a citizen complaint, a letter by District Attorney Bert Poston stated.

Poston sent the letter to Chatsworth Mayor Dan Penland and City Council members on Dec. 11 after a Murray County resident complained about then-chief Martin’s conduct. According to the letter, the woman filed a complaint with the District Attorney’s Office.

Council members on Monday voted unanimously to move the police chief of 11 years to a position as city marshal where he will have code enforcement duties. Council member Fred Welch said Martin’s actions in the private investigation may have been a factor in the decision, but he declined to go into detail. Before Martin was police chief, he was assistant chief for 11 years.

According to the letter from Poston, “Based on our review of the evidence, it appears that during the month of November of this year, Chief Martin assisted with a private investigation being conducted by licensed private investigator Jeffrey Gallmon, dba VIP Investigations, who had been hired by (the woman’s) husband in connection to a pending divorce action.”

Gallmon didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on Thursday, and Martin did not return several phone calls.

The letter states Martin had been registered as an employee of VIP Investigations, but the registration expired in 2011. It states Martin’s job was surveillance of the woman on several occasions but there are two incidents of “particular concern.” On Nov. 1, Poston wrote, Martin called the Murray County 911 Center asking if anyone had received a call from the road where the woman who was under surveillance lived.

“Chief Martin indicated that a female had confronted him on the street in front of her residence but did not disclose that he was involved in the private investigation and made statements discouraging the 911 Center from sending a deputy to the location should anyone call to report the confrontation,” Poston wrote.

At the end of the letter, Poston wrote that while Martin conducted the surveillance in his private vehicle and “presumably on his own time (although not verified), his use of his position as chief of police to influence the response to (the woman’s) complaints is particularly troubling. Again, we forward this information to you for whatever action you deem appropriate.”

Penland said the council’s decision to move Martin was a personnel decision, and he declined to comment further. The council must vote each year to appoint or re-appoint a police chief along with several other department heads.