Lawrenceville police chief resigns after sexual harassment investigation

Lawrenceville Police Chief Tim Wallis

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Lawrenceville Police Chief Tim Wallis

An internal investigation into sexual harassment within the Lawrenceville Police Department has prompted the police chief’s resignation, announced Tuesday.

Chief Tim Wallis, 54, was cited in the investigator’s final report released last Thursday for sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. The city manager suspended him for 10 days without pay, notifying him in a letter that also accused him of retaliating against an assistant for talking to the investigator, failing to investigate or take action when sexual harassment allegations were made against a captain, and allowing his wife to interject herself into department affairs.

City Manager Chuck Warbington said in a news release Tuesday afternoon that he had a meeting with the chief about moving the department forward after the recent events.

“During that meeting, Chief Wallis and I mutually agreed that it was best for him, the City, and the Police Department that he step down as Chief and retire from the City on February 15, 2022,” Warbington’s statement said.

The law firm Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson began investigating in late October and revealed a culture of sexism and harassment that some employees said went back years and continued in certain corners of the department.

A female officer alleged she had endured lewd comments and text messages from the captain over criminal investigations, Christopher Ryan Morgan. The officer said the chief and assistant chief weren’t taking appropriate action because Morgan was part of a “good ol’ boy” network. Morgan ultimately declined to be interviewed by the investigator and announced his retirement from the department in December.

But the investigator found that Wallis had made sexist remarks of his own to the female officer, who secretly recorded one of their conversations.

“You walk around here looking like a Hooters girl when the air conditioner’s not working,” the report quoted Chief Wallis saying. “Are you working here or are you working at Hooters? Go get you some orange shorts on.”

The report said Wallis also had brought an executive assistant to tears over a hotel room she booked for him for a conference in Savannah, grilling her to find out who told her that the chief was upset about it. He and his wife also spoke to the wife of another subordinate and inappropriately implied that the subordinate had an “emotional affair” with a co-worker, the suspension letter said.

Chief Wallis did not return a call and a text on Tuesday seeking comment.

Previously, he disputed the report’s findings about him and had asked Warbington to overturn or reduce his 10-day suspension, according to a Jan. 17 letter to the city manager. Wallis spent more than two decades with the department, assuming the role of chief in 2018.

In his 13-page rebuttal, Wallis vehemently denied contributing to a hostile work environment and said the comment referring to his subordinate as a “Hooter’s girl” was made in jest.

The assistant police chief, Maj. Myron Walker, will serve as acting chief until a permanent replacement is found.