EATONTON, Ga. — Since his arrest by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on misdemeanor criminal charges longtime Eatonton Police Chief Kent Lawrence has been on administrative leave with pay.
Members of the Eatonton City Council Public Safety Committee met Thursday night to discuss a personnel matter, but did not take any action.
It was not known whether or not the personnel matter had anything to do with Lawrence since Georgia law allows government officials to meet behind closed doors to discuss matters related to personnel.
City Attorney Chris Hudson said, “no action was taken” during the executive session, which lasted about 50 minutes.
Those participating in the closed door session included Public Safety Committee Chairman and City Councilman James Gorley, Councilman Harvey “Chip” Walker, Councilman Alvin Butts, Eatonton Mayor John Reid, City Attorney Hudson, City Administrator Gary Sanders, and Acting Police Chief Howell Cardwell.
After the meeting ended, Sanders was asked whether he had received any requests under the Georgia Open Records Act from GBI agents for documents they reportedly are interested in finding and reviewing at the police department.
Sanders said no such request had been made of him.
In recent days, GBI agents have been seen at police headquarters, according to sources. But what exactly they are looking for is unclear.
It also is unknown whether or not it has anything to do with the pending criminal case involving Lawrence.
The veteran police chief has served as the city’s top cop for more than 34 years.
Lawrence was arrested by the GBI on Dec. 11, 2020, following allegations that he injured an Eatonton woman who was brought to police headquarters after being stopped on suspicion of drunk driving in the city limits.
The woman was later identified as 58-year-old Tina Childress.
Lawrence was arrested on three misdemeanor warrants that were signed by Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Brenda H. Trammell after they were requested by GBI Special Agent Deborah A. Loving.
The police chief was charged with two counts of simple battery and one count of battery.
He was photographed and booked at the Putnam County Jail in Eatonton and then released.
Lawrence is accused of causing physical harm to Childress while she was handcuffed and in custody.
Specifically, he is accused of striking the woman’s head multiple times with one of his hands, grabbing the back of her hair and pulling it with his hands, and dragging the woman across the floor of police headquarters while she was handcuffed.
Lawrence has refused to talk about the incident, publicly or with the media.
He has hired an attorney.
Baldwin County State Court Judge Alan Thrower has been appointed to hear the case when it goes to trial in Putnam County State Court in Eatonton.