Hall County extension agent Michael Wheeler has been fired after a substance in the top drawer of his office desk tested positive for cocaine, according to an incident report.
University of Georgia police report there is “insufficient evidence to pursue a criminal charge.”
A co-worker at the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County reported she saw Wheeler snort something off his desk using a rolled up piece of paper, according to an incident report from UGA police that was obtained by The Times on Wednesday. The Hall County Sheriff’s Office had responded and collected some evidence when police arrived Friday morning.
The Sheriff’s Office referred all comment to UGA.
Wheeler, 42, of Buford, was sent a termination letter Monday, according to an email from Judy Ashley, director of the Northeast District Extension Office at UGA in Athens, which was obtained by The Times.
Wheeler was not in the office when authorities first arrived Friday but came back while a Hall County deputy was investigating. That’s when Wheeler received a letter placing him on administrative leave, according to authorities. He left the building without making a statement to the deputy. He later called back Ashley and denied any illegal drug use, according to police.
A field test of the substance found in Wheeler’s desk was positive for cocaine, but there was not enough powder to collect for additional testing, according to the report.
The Hall deputy collected the rolled up paper plus some paper towels and two nametags allegedly used by Wheeler as a surface from which to ingest the substance, according to the report.
Wheeler has not returned phone calls from The Times, which published a twice monthly gardening column by Wheeler as part of his role as an extension agent. The extension provides education services in the community related to agricultural and environmental sciences.
Wheeler has been a Hall extension agent since 2011 and has worked for UGA Cooperative Extension for almost 20 years.
Saying “we do not discuss the details of personnel matters,” University of Georgia spokesman Greg Trevor declined to comment on the firing.
Trevor said extension agents’ salaries are jointly funded by county governments and the university.
Although the alleged cocaine use took place in a county facility, Hall spokeswoman Katie Crumley said the matter is being handled by UGA because Wheeler was a university employee.
“We were notified of it, and that’s the extent of our involvement,” Crumley said.