Lawrenceville mayor, city manager wrote letters praising police captain accused of sexual harassment

Lawrenceville Police Capt. Christopher Ryan Morgan, (left), is pictured here as the department celebrated his retirement in late December. He is standing with Maj. Myron Walker, the agency's assistant chief. (Lawrenceville PD Facebook page)

Credit: Facebook

caption arrowCaption
Lawrenceville Police Capt. Christopher Ryan Morgan, (left), is pictured here as the department celebrated his retirement in late December. He is standing with Maj. Myron Walker, the agency's assistant chief. (Lawrenceville PD Facebook page)

Credit: Facebook

One female officer said he regularly called her a hooker and asked for nude photos. Other co-workers viewed him as a lazy “wreck” and someone who always skated by without punishment because he was protected by those above him.

These allegations emerged against former Lawrenceville police Capt. Christopher Ryan Morgan in a weeks-long investigation of sexual harassment at the city’s police department, according to a Dec. 28 report produced by an independent investigator.

Yet, none of it seemed to faze top city officials. Instead of reprimanding Morgan, the commander over the department’s criminal investigations division, they accepted his retirement without ever notifying the state’s police certification agency about the investigation.

Mayor David Still and City Manager Chuck Warbington wrote glowing “To whom it may concern” reference letters lauding Morgan’s record even though the investigation had not been completed.

“He epitomizes all aspects of a true leader and will greatly be missed at the City of Lawrenceville,” Warbington wrote in a Dec. 16 letter on Lawrenceville Police Department stationery.

Several days later, on Dec. 21, Mayor Still wrote his own letter on city letterhead praising Morgan. He said he had known Morgan for over nine years and he “has influenced many positive results for Lawrenceville.”

“We will dearly miss Captain Morgan and we wish him the best in his new adventures,” Still wrote.

Morgan declined an interview request on Friday, but in a text he said he never sexually harassed anyone.

caption arrowCaption
Former Lawrenceville police captain Christopher Ryan Morgan received a glowing recommendation from City Manager Chuck Warbington on the eve of Morgan's departure. (Highlight added here for emphasis.)

Credit: Lawrenceville Police Deprt

Former Lawrenceville police captain Christopher Ryan Morgan received a glowing recommendation from City Manager Chuck Warbington on the eve of Morgan's departure. (Highlight added here for emphasis.)

Credit: Lawrenceville Police Deprt

caption arrowCaption
Former Lawrenceville police captain Christopher Ryan Morgan received a glowing recommendation from City Manager Chuck Warbington on the eve of Morgan's departure. (Highlight added here for emphasis.)

Credit: Lawrenceville Police Deprt

Credit: Lawrenceville Police Deprt

“As to the allegations I was ‘lazy’ and a ‘wreck’, I will let the letters of recommendation from the mayor and city manager outlining my accomplishments speak to that,” Morgan said.

Both the mayor and the city manager told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday that, at the time, they didn’t know what the investigation had uncovered. Both officials told the AJC that the letters were never intended to be recommendation letters.

“I outlined four specific accomplishments that I was familiar with and thanked him for his service,” Still said in an email. “Had I known about the findings of the investigation, I would not have written the letter.”

Warbington echoed similar sentiments.

“Had I known how systematic and inappropriate his behavior was as outlined in the investigative report,” Warbington told the AJC in a written statement, “I would have never provided the letter.”

However, records show Warbington knew about the allegations swirling around the department. More than a month earlier, Warbington and his assistant city manager had met with a female police officer and heard her complaints about “several issues” in the police department that prompted the city to seek an outside law firm to conduct the probe that began Oct. 28, according to the investigative report.

Warbington also knew that Capt. Morgan wasn’t fully cooperating, the investigator reported.

The captain had been scheduled for an interview with the investigator on Dec. 14. The night before, the report said, he informed Warbington that he would be retiring at the end of the month and that he was declining to be interviewed.

That was three days before the city manager wrote his letter praising Morgan for his “22 years of dedicated service and commitment” to the city.

“His actions within the department can best be described as dedicated to personal improvement through training, effective leadership in policy making and strategic planning,” Warbington’s letter said.

caption arrowCaption
Lawrenceville Police Chief Tim Wallis

Credit: Lawrencevillega.org

Lawrenceville Police Chief Tim Wallis

Credit: Lawrencevillega.org

caption arrowCaption
Lawrenceville Police Chief Tim Wallis

Credit: Lawrencevillega.org

Credit: Lawrencevillega.org

The mayor’s and the city manager’s letters for Morgan were brought up in a 13-page rebuttal to the investigative report by police Chief Tim Wallis, whose suspension without pay for 10 days was announced Thursday. Wallis’ rebuttal pushed back against the investigation’s findings that he too sexually harassed a female subordinate and created a hostile work environment.

Wallis’ response was addressed to the city manager. The chief complained that Capt. Morgan was able to retire with recommendation letters because of “the threat of him exposing the previous administration’s transgressions along with other information.”

“Absolutely false,” the city manager told the AJC by email. “(Capt. Morgan) mentioned to me on the way out when I signed the letter that he had a lot of dirt on previous administrations before I became City Manager and I told him he is free to share with me and anyone else.”

Mayor Still in an email also disputed the chief’s claims.

“This is the first I have heard of this allegation,” he said.

The 33-page investigative report by the law firm Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson, obtained by the AJC from the city on Thursday after weeks of open records requests, presents a window into a culture of harassment within Lawrenceville’s police department. The report portrays an internal culture where women endured off-color remarks and verbal thrashings from male colleagues.

But the female officer who prompted the investigation described the most severe behavior as coming from Capt. Morgan. She described a good ol’ boy network in the agency that started years ago and continues today in certain corners. The AJC is not identifying the officer because she is a victim of sexual harassment.

Morgan was accused of sending her a Christmas Day text wishing her “Happy birthday hooker.” She alleged he also responded to a picture of her remodeled home bathroom by saying that the picture would be improved if she appeared nude in it. After Morgan had informed the city he would retire, the female officer alleges he confronted her, saying, “You’ll never police again when I get done with you.”

Another female employee said Morgan admonished her for the way she talked to her husband on the phone, saying, “If you were my wife, you wouldn’t talk to me that way, you’d be in the kitchen making me a sandwich.”

Meanwhile, a third female police employee said Morgan made “inappropriate jokes (not of a sexual nature),” and he was lazy, unprofessional and “a wreck.”

The letters from the mayor and the city manager weren’t the only pats on the back that Morgan received on his way out the door.

The police department had a small sendoff ceremony just days before he retired that included cake and refreshments.

In a photo posted on the department’s Facebook page, Morgan and the department’s assistant chief, Maj. Myron Walker, appear in front of a head-high banner bearing the department’s logo.

The banner reads: “DUTY. INTEGRITY. HONOR.”