GBI probes Eton, Ga., police on whether employees misused seized funds

GBI probes Eton, Ga., police on whether employees misused seized funds

October 19th, 2011 by Mariann Martin in News

District Attorney Kermit McManus

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating whether employees of the Eton Police Department in Murray County misused seized funds, according to the agent leading the probe.

Jerry Scott, the GBI agent in charge at Calhoun, Ga., declined to give details on how many employees are being investigated, if they are police officers or how much money is involved.

Scott said his office began the investigation at the request of Conasauga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Kermit McManus, who contacted the GBI on Sept. 15.

"Once the investigation is complete, we will turn over the information to the district attorney's office for review," Scott said.

McManus said Eton City Attorney Terry Miller contacted him about the possible misuse of funds. McManus then sent a letter to the GBI.

The district attorney's office will not be further involved in the investigation until the GBI provides its report, McManus said.

An investigation involving misuse of seized funds is "very rare," McManus said, and is the first of its kind he has requested.

GBI spokesman John Bankhead said he did not know how many such investigations the GBI conducted in the last year.

Eton Police Chief Brent Hooper did not return a phone message on Tuesday.

Under Georgia law, law enforcement agencies are required to annually report forfeiture proceeds and expenditures to the local authority that provides their funding. A law that went into effect in January also requires those reports to be filed online.

In a report issued in March, the Washington-based Institute for Justice found that, out of a random sampling of 20 Georgia law enforcement agencies, only two had filed the required reports. The report gave Georgia a D- for its civil forfeiture laws and practices, with only four other states receiving similarly low grades.

It was not clear on Tuesday whether the Eton Police Department files the required annual report.

According to a photo on the department's website, the city has five officers, including the chief. The city's 2011 budget allocates $125,231 for the police department, with more than $100,000 of that spent on officers' salaries.

Eton has a population of about 500.