Video: Port Wentworth mayor questions police chief firing

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PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. (WSAV) – Police Chief Matt Libby has been fired by the City of Port Wentworth.

Interim City Administrator Steve Davis, who just last week was approved by the city council, made the call.

“Before his termination, Mr. Libby was given the opportunity to resign but refused,” Davis said, in part, in a statement to News 3. “Mr. Libby was a contract worker and an employee at will.

“His conduct over the last week was unbecoming, reflected discredit on the city and was insubordinate.”

According to the city administrator, Libby “held serious personal animosity” and made “several disparaging comments about superiors.”

Davis adds that Libby was not in compliance with the procedure of an Open Records Request regarding a video of “a meeting concerning personnel issues in the Interim City Administrators office where no surveillance should be located.”

Port Wentworth Mayor Gary Norton wasn’t satisfied with Davis’s answer about firing Chief Libby or longtime employee Cheryl Davis who was let go last week. So he asked News 3 to come with him to confront the interim City Administrator in his office Thursday.

“Can you answer some questions for me today?” Norton asked Davis
“In front of the camera?” said Davis.

Mayor Norton asked specifically about Cheryl Davis’ firing, which came after 14 dedicated years working with the city.

“Nothing in her file?” asked Norton.
“And you fired her?”
“What for?”
“Sir it was in her discharge papers and separation notice.”

The Director of Public Safety and 28 year veteran, Matt Libby was dismissed Wednesday.

“Libby has been an asset to this community for years. Our crime rate has never been lower,” explains the Mayor. “I think we were like number 12 last year in the state. He don’t know Libby either so why is he firing Libby? He’s got people telling him who to fire.”

Steve Davis has been in office less than a month, and according to Chief Libby had only spoken to him once before Wednesday’s firing. He also says Davis has never been to the police department, and has not given the Chief his legally required separation papers.

“You’ve been here two weeks and you fired Cheryl,” said Mayor Norton.
“Yes sir’
“You haven’t made three weeks and you fired Libby.”
“Yes sir.”
“Shouldn’t the Mayor know that Libby is going to be fired.”

Mayor Norton says Davis was ‘pushed’ into office by a four council member voting block at the last meeting. Norton points to Debbie Johnson, Thomas Barbee, Shari Dyal and Mark Stephens as the “gang of four” who are exerting their power.

That vote happened even though it wasn’t on the original agenda at that meeting. Norton also says Davis never went through formal interviews with several key people, including the Mayor himself.

“Nobody’s met with Steve Davis had an interview with him,” said Norton. “Linda (Smith, another council member) hasn’t, Bill (Herrin, another council member) hasn’t, I haven’t. Phil Jones (previous interim city administrator) or Jimmy Coursey (Port Wentworth legal counsel) haven’t had a meeting with him. So it has to be those four.”

Norton says these decision have shocked the City and put everyone on edge.

“Everybody who works for the city is thinking am I next, am I next. and that’s a hostile work environment,” said Norton.

Libby tells News 3 he had no disciplinary problems or issues in his file previously and is proud of the work he has done with the department.

Davis said a full separation notice will be given to Libby in the coming days.

Major Lee Sherrod has been promoted to Interim Police Chief.

Libby in 2017 was approved for a five-year contract by the city council to remain in his position as police chief.

At the time, Mayor Glenn Jones was stepping away from his seat and some council members wanted to ensure Libby didn’t go with him.

Others did not see a need for giving the chief a contract after so many years of service.

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