A veteran Columbus Police officer has lost his job after lying about overhearing a restroom conversation in which he claimed Chief Ricky Boren used a racial slur in reference to Marshal Greg Countryman.
A three-week investigation, ordered by Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and conducted by a retired GBI agent, cleared Boren of the allegations made public by Countryman and reported in April by The Courier Eco Latino, a publication that covers the black and Hispanic communities.
Officer Jeff Foxx, who had been with the force for 18 years, offered his resignation to Tomlinson last Thursday when she and an assistant city attorney confronted him with the results of the investigation. Foxx failed a polygraph test the day before he resigned.
In a Tuesday letter to Boren and Countryman outlining the investigations findings, Tomlinson called the allegations false and knowingly contrived.
There is no question in my mind the chief never made such a statement, Tomlinson said late Tuesday in a Ledger-Enquirer interview. She released investigator Michael Rundles 24-page report that describes at-length interviews with Boren, Foxx and Countryman, among others.
Boren is white and Countryman is black.
The mayor stated that Foxx got tangled in a lie that started with a parking lot conversation in which the officer told Countryman he had overheard Boren call him the N word in a fourth-floor restroom at the Public Safety Center. Countryman repeated Foxxs assertion at a meeting of black ministers, according to the investigative report.
I heard Foxx say several times it was like a train out of control, and he just could not stop it, Tomlinson said.
Boren said he welcomed the mayors investigation.
I knew it was fabricated from Day 1, Boren said. The only thing I didnt know was who fabricated it and why they fabricated it. I want to know what the next step is to clear my name.
Boren has been in the Columbus Police Department for 42 years, the last nine as chief. He said he has never faced such an allegation.
This is extremely serious, Boren said. I would be very curious to know why he chose me and chose this topic to make such an allegation. I would also be curious to know if he had any direction to make this allegation.
Boren refused to answer questions about Countrymans involvement in the ordeal. He also declined to discuss possible legal action. Countryman, who has been marshal since 2004, did not return a call late Tuesday. Earlier in the day, Countryman said of the investigation, I just want it to be done.
Countryman was not involved in concocting the lie, Tomlinson said.
I think that the marshal believed what a trusted person told him, Tomlinson said. He believed it, and it became his reality.
The investigation was started after Countryman reported Foxxs claim to the mayor, the investigative report stated.
The person who the officer overheard allegedly stated the marshal was a thorn in his (Boren) side and he used the N word, according to the investigative report. At the time, Countryman did not tell the mayor the officers name. Borens conversation was said to have been with a mid-level officer. Several police lieutenants were interviewed by Rundles. They all denied participating in a conversation with Boren in which a racial slur was used.
During his interview, Boren told the investigator he did not use the public restrooms in the police headquarters because he had a private one in his office.
The investigation was conducted independently out of the mayors office and did not involve the Georgia Bureau of Investigation or the police departments Office of Professional Standards. The GBI declined to investigate.
Foxxs story began to unravel in a series of conversations and interviews with Rundles May 2 and May 8. It culminated May 8 when Foxx failed a polygraph test. According to the investigative report, there were three relevant questions:
Did you lie when you said you heard someone use the word N----- in the 4th floor bathroom?
Did you tell Marshal Countryman a (lieutenant) was involved in the conversation in the bathroom?
Do you know for sure who made that statement in 4th floor bathroom?
Foxx answered no to all the questions. The polygraph administrator advised Rundles that Foxx was deceptive.
Foxx, who also worked in the Muscogee County Sheriffs office, has been in trouble before. He was terminated from the police force by Boren in February 2009 for making false statements about an incident in the jail. The Personnel Review Board reversed the firing and reinstated Foxx.
During his interview with Rundles, Boren recounted the previous personnel issue with Foxx. The chief also stated Foxx recently made an attempt to contact the chief, but he not meet with him.
He stated a higher up was trying to railroad him, the investigative report states.