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Jefferson police officer fired over policy violations

POSTED: March 19, 2009 12:29 a.m.

Although an external inquiry cleared Jefferson police Officer Robert Fehr of any criminal wrong-doing, Chief Joseph Wirthman has found probable cause to fire the officer.

Prior to being fired, Fehr had been on administrative leave with pay while allegations were being investigated that he was in a relationship with a student at a school where he worked.

"Basically, the officer wasn’t fired for having an affair with a high school student since she was 17 at the time and the age of consent in Georgia is 16, and there is no proof that he had custodial supervision of the student when the relationship took place," Wirthman said. "However, he was terminated for violating seven different departmental policies."

Among other things, an internal investigation substantiated claims that Fehr violated departmental codes of conduct.

"The policy states that engaging in conduct on or off duty which adversely affects the efficiency of the department and has a tendency to destroy public respect for the employee and the department, or destroys confidence in the operation of city service is conduct unbecoming," Wirthman said in a letter to Fehr notifying him of his termination.

"I believe your actions as stated have harmed the image of the Jefferson Police at this time."

In the letter to Fehr, which was obtained by The Times through an open records request, Wirthman goes on to list other violations that stemmed from Fehr’s relationship with a 17-year-old.

According to the police department’s internal investigation, in a two-month period from November though December 2008, Fehr spent more than 60 hours on the telephone with the teenager during working hours, which Wirthman says accounted for more than 15 percent of Fehr’s available work time.

"The (Jefferson) City Policy states that an employee can not perform acts which endanger you or another employee and be fully prepared to perform work assignments as required," Wirthman said in the written notice. "By being on the phone either on the way or during a call to service you put yourself, other officers and citizens in possible harm’s way by not being fully focused on the task at hand. Your personal calls were excessive to the extent that a reasonable person would say they went far beyond any reasonable expectation as to your work performance and work ethic."

Although Fehr has been fired, as of March 12, if he feels that his reputation has been unjustly damaged, he has the opportunity to request a public name-clearing hearing before the Jefferson City Council, Wirthman said.



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