A report encompassing 31 pages has been released by Maj. Mark Tison of the Rome Police Department regarding the conduct of Buchanan Mayor A.J. Scott and his relationship with the Buchanan Police Department.
The report covered two incidents that displayed an abuse of power including demanding the only officer on duty to abandon the city in order to give him a ride home from a bar and grill in Bremen.
Tison was brought in around Nov. 16 as a third-party investigator by Buchanan City Attorney Carey Pilgrim.
The Times-Georgian made attempts to contact Pilgrim regarding the investigation but he did not return messages seeking comment.
According to the report, Tison had a phone conversation with Pilgrim where Pilgrim advised Tison of ongoing issues between the Mayor of Buchanan and the Buchanan Police Department.
Tison analyzed every incident independently in his report in order to provide a methodical presentation. The first incident that was addressed occurred on Sept. 3, 2022, when Officer Travis Brynildsen received a call from Scott at around 11:10 p.m. regarding people running through the park.
Brynildsen said that he arrived at the park just 15-20 seconds after the call from Scott. Brynildsen investigated the area with Scott who said eight people got out of a black SUV and began running through the park.
According to the report from Brynildsen, there was no sign anyone had been in the park. Brynildsen did say that Scott had a strong odor of alcohol and was speaking very slurred. After speaking with Major Chris Whitfield, Brynildsen completed an incident report. During an interview with Tison on November 21, 2022, Brynildsen shared that he was wearing a body camera but he did not activate it. When asked why he told Tison because he was getting out with the Mayor and did not think about it. Brynildsen also shared in the interview that it was common knowledge that when Scott “gets drunk he calls and has people do stuff for him.”
The second incident occurred Sept. 15, 2022, just 12 days after the incident with Brynildsen. According to the report, Scott called Officer Elijah Boyd at approximately 10:02 p.m. Scott told Boyd he was at The Grill in Bremen and that he was unable to drive home due to the fact that he was drunk. Upon arrival at The Grill, Boyd encountered a bar patron named Scottie Nelly. Nelly told Boyd that Scott was drunk and needed some help. Boyd attempted to get Scott to leave, but Scott continued to talk with two female employees. Boyd eventually went outside without Scott and not before long one of the female employees exited the restaurant and told him he had to come get Scott. Boyd convinced Scott to leave but as they were leaving Scott attempted to take an alcoholic beverage with him but Nelly prevented Scott from leaving with the drink.
- The report states that Scott finished the drink before stumbling to the car. Tison interviewed Boyd on Nov. 28, regarding the incident, Boyd said he recalled receiving a call from Scott needing to be picked up because he was “fd up.”
On Sept. 16, 2022, Buchannan Police Department Chief Brent Christopher added a supplemental to the original report after contacting Jeremy Church, a representative of The Grill. Church confirmed during a phone conversation with Christopher that the incident did take place at the location. Church passed the information of Kyle Hopkins who was bartending at the time to Christopher. Hopkins said that Scott was very intoxicated and kept trying to buy alcohol despite the bar attempting to close. Hopkins said Scott became rude and proceeded to get onto the bar before beginning to unzip his pants. Christopher contacted the Bremen Police Department to have the incident investigated. The supplemental also states that Scott contacted Christopher for a ride back to Bremen to retrieve his vehicle. Christopher noted that Scott got into his patrol having a strong odor of alcohol coming from him. When asked, Scott said that he had not been driving but had gotten drunk the night before.
The Bremen Police Department also conducted an investigation at the request of Christopher. Lieutenant Cochran of the Bremen Police Department’s report said that he met with the employees of The Grill that were on shift the night of Sept. 15, Kyle Hopkins and Brittany Evans. According to the report, both Hopkins and Evans described Scott as very intoxicated, however both said that Scott never exposed himself or acted out. When Tison spoke to Cochran he expressed that he believed The Grill employees had talked about the incident and wanted to downplay the incident.
Tison conducted an interview with Christopher regarding the relationship between Scott and the Police Department. Christopher told Tison that the problems with the Mayor had started a while back. According to the report, “He stated he had spoken to the City Council about the Mayor calling the officers when he is drunk and using the department as a personal taxi service. He specifically referred to speaking with Mayor Pro Tempore Angie Hood. She advised him to start documenting incidents involving the Mayor.”
Tison asked Christopher about any other incidents involving Scott.
According to the report, Christopher recalled a Standardized Field Sobriety Training class the department hosted. He stated the Mayor volunteered himself to be one of the test subjects. He stated the Mayor was drinking on the wrong day of the class and that he drank all day long and became intoxicated. Christopher stated they had made arrangements for a test subject and the Mayor took it upon himself to drink.
When asked about the primary cause of the problem between the Mayor and the Buchanan Police Department, Christopher said that it was the behavior of Scott. According to the report, Christopher told Tison that he believes he is the person who has stood up to Scott. Christopher said he believes the prior Buchanan Police Chief Chad Henderson “just did what the Mayor wanted him to do.”
When asked about issues that Scott had with the Police Department, Christopher said according to the report that, “the Mayor has also been following officers around and video recording them in an attempt to catch them doing something wrong.”
Christopher said he recalled one incident where two BPD officers, Boyd and Brynildersen were responding as emergency vehicles to back up an officer from the MCCD. He stated the Mayor pulled out in between the two patrol units and followed them to the call and at one point passed a vehicle on a double yellow line and almost ran another vehicle off the road.”
In the report, Tison had Scott describe the incident at The Grill saying, “He stated that he went to The Grill for a couple meetings. He indicated he may have arrived around 4:30 p.m. and stayed until closing at 10:00 p.m. At one point his grandmother and another individual joined him and they drank and socialized with persons they knew. His grandmother left about 20 minutes before he called the officer to come pick him up. He stated he called other persons looking for a ride before calling the officer. He did not recall who he called but he believes one was Heath Lee. Lee did not answer his call.”
Later in the report, “He acknowledged that he did drink too much, and he was loud, obnoxious and acted like a fool. He stated he may have stood up in a barstool, but he denied dancing, getting on the bar, unzipping his pants or exposing himself. He estimated that he drank eight or nine Old Fashions. The Mayor did not understand where the information came from in the report. He hoped it was a misunderstanding. He stated he did not commit the acts described in the report and he does not like being falsely accused.”
Scott could not be reached for comment. Buchanan City Clerk Sherry Taylor told the Times-Georgian on Wednesday that she would pass contact information along to Scott. In a phone call later that day Taylor informed the Times-Georgian that Scott was out of town and would likely not be in the office by the end of the day.
In the conclusion portion of the report, Tison suggests that in regard to the incident at the park, Brynildsen initially estimated time of 15-20 seconds to get the park with no signs of people having been in the park or an SUV could certainly lead Brynildsen to question the claim of the mayor. While the level of intoxication is in question there is no dispute that Scott had been drinking alcohol which could also cause Brynildsen to question the claim.
Additional evidence suggests Brynildsen arrived at the park one minute and twenty-eight seconds after Scott’s daughter parked their vehicle. According to one of Scott’s children, Scott called the officer while still at the railroad crossing, which is on the other side of the park from City Hall. Scott’s daughter also indicated that the dark SUV left the area while they were on the other side of the park. According to the report, “The preponderance of evidence suggests that there were persons at the park as reported by the Mayor.”
Tison’s reports also said, “With regard to the incident at The Grill, it is undisputed the Mayor was intoxicated, however the Mayor’s actions while at The Grill are disputed. In his written report and his interview, Officer Boyd stated an employee told him the Mayor had exposed himself. These allegations are denied by the Mayor. The employee’s verbal and written statements also contradict Boyd’s assertion. There is an inference the employees of The Grill were attempting to downplay the incident involving the Mayor after the incident was reported. This inference is somewhat supported by the Chief and Major’s statements regarding the Mayor calling Ty Cartwright the morning after the incident.”
Tison was unable to confirm or deny the claim by obtaining information from Scott’s phone. Scott did not cooperate meaning there is no definitive evidence that Scott did or did not contact anyone to have them downplay the incident. Tison also noted that there are distinct differences between the statement made by Boyd and the written statements obtained by Cochran three days after the incident. According to the report, “The preponderance of the evidence suggests the Mayor unzipped or pretended to unzip his pants while dancing on the bar but he did not expose himself. It is undisputed that the Mayor was intoxicated.”
The City Council of Buchanan will be meeting at 6 p.m. at the Buchanan City Hall on Highway 120.
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