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Varnell Mayor vetoes council's decision to dissolve police department

Varnell community members met with the mayor Wednesday evening to discuss the decision made to disband the police department. (Image: WTVC)

UPDATE:

Thursday afternoon, Varnell City Mayor Anthony Hulsey vetoed the council's vote to disband the police department, meaning the Varnell Police Department is reinstated.

Varnell Police Chief Lyle Grant says the nine member department is excited to be back on the streets, after council's decision Tuesday.

"It was kind of a shock, just like everybody else I was surprised as anyone else, didn't see it coming," Grant said. "It feels good to get back to work and get back up serving the community of Varnell."

Mayor Hulsey says he's happy to do his part to bring the force back.

"The bottom line is we've got to do what's best for the city and what's best for the citizens in the city because that's our job up here. It's not a matter of personal vendettas, personal agendas, personal goals or whatever the case is," Hulsey said. "Bottom line is we are put here to work and act in the best interest of the city and its citizens and that's what we need to do."

The mayor says citizens want and need their police department. He has also taken calls about people threatening certain council members since they voted to end the department. In fact, councilman Jan Pourquoi says his family feels threatened, and that the mayor himself is creating a "mob atmosphere". We asked the mayor about this...

"My first response is I'm not creating a mob atmosphere. The citizens here have the right to be informed. They need to know what's going on in their cities," Hulsey said. "I'm not creating a mob scene by no means and that's not the intentions. The intentions is to address concerns and try to ease any fear they may have and let them know we are working on a resolution for this."

For now, the focus is on getting the police officers back to work, all the while not knowing what will happen next.

"I think they do consider us as family and we consider them as family. we love our community and our community supports and loves us," Grant said.

The mayor said this is not the end. Varnell City Council meets again July 25. At that time, they have the power to override the mayor's veto, which means the department would be cut again.

"It's going to continue and I cannot actively say how long it will continue, but I would hope that everybody can get on board and we can get on the same page and have this thing resolved," Hulsey said.

The city attorney says the mayor was allowed to veto the decision because the council's vote was voidable. He says in his legal opinion, people here should have had more notice that the vote was going to happen in the first place.


PREVIOUSLY:

The city attorney for Varnell tells NewsChannel 9 that Tuesday's surprise vote to disband the Varnell Police Department by the city council was not conducted according to Georgia state law, in his legal opinion. He gave that information to Varnell's Mayor Anthony Hulsey.

At a Q&A to address the council's decision, Hulsey told residents he will use his veto power to overturn the decision. The city attorney, Terry Miller, says he will have the veto paper work ready for the Mayor to sign by noon Thursday.

Miller says city council members did not give the public enough notice about the issue before voting on it, violating Georgia's open records law.

At a meeting Tuesday called to reinstate the Varnell police chief after his suspension, Councilman Jan Pourquoi presented a motion to get rid of the entire department. It passed three to one.

"The bottom line remains the same," said Councilman Jan Pourquoi. "We are going to reduce liability, cut costs and free up money to do other things with."

When we met with Pourquoi today - a resident pulled up, and started arguing with the Councilman about his actions - telling him he made a lot of enemies in the city.

"I feel a lot more secure, a lot more safe knowing my police department is just down the road," said Varnell resident Andy Osinski.

His neighbors raised even more concerns about the council getting rid of the police department.

"I really just think they made a horrible mistake getting rid of the police department," said Ramona Pangle.

Varnell Councilman Jan Pourquoi says he talked to other council members separately about the motion before yesterday's meeting. But he says the discussion was one-on-one and therefore did not break the state's sunshine law.

Related | Varnell City Council votes to disband police department

Watch the Varnell city meeting below (video courtesy Varnell Police Department's Facebook page)


The police department may be disbanded, but someone who operates their Facebook page remains active on social media, sharing many posts showing support for the disbanded force.


This is a developing story. Depend on NewsChannel 9 to bring you updates as we get them.

Related | Varnell Police Chief on leave, arrested councilman to resign

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