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Tensions heat up at Cordele City Commission Meeting

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Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 2:54 PM EST
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CORDELE, Ga. (WALB) - Tonight, the city of Cordele remains without a police chief as tensions between the local government and some residents in the community continue.

Commissioners met tonight to address concerns from citizens and a business owner - calling into question the actions of Commission Chairman, Joshua Deriso.

“Citizens of Cordele didn’t pay attention to the local election and 558 voters put the current chairman in his position and he has overstepped the bounds of his authority ever since January 1,” said Mike Hathaway, former police chief for the city of Cordele.

Hathaway said something needs to change.

“Everything that I attempted to implement got questioned by the chairman, not by the city manager. The city manager is my boss. I answered to the city manager, but the chairman sought to look at everything I did and critique it,” he said.

Hathaway resigned from his position back on Feb. 17 and claims Deriso has lowered morale in the police department and is creating issues for the entire city.

Business owner Ronald Michael agrees.

“Mr. Chairman you came to our office on the 9th of February and looked at our records and curriculum for anger management and conflict resolution. I wanted to be in this open forum to ask exactly why you did that and on what authority you had to do that?” Michael said.

Michael spoke at Tuesday’s commission meeting and told Walb news 10 Deriso violated the city charter by operating outside of his positions.

Michael’s business, All Safe Driving Clinic in partnership with the former police chief, was seeking to create a plan for the local judge to create a conflict resolution class for citizens involved in fights.

Deriso said he was in favor of this plan but needed a better understanding of the services, the organization and the police chief could provide.

“I found an email in the city with the former police chief sending a recommendation to the municipal court judge for conflict resolution classes. This is what I do. This is how I make my money. I have a master’s from the University of Georgia in clinical social work. So, I love, as I told the police chief, the initiative for doing it,” Deriso said at the meeting. “However, some of the rationale which was written in the email was an issue for me because it didn’t line up for me being a clinician. The former Police chief has no clinical degree in this method. So I became concerned.”

Deriso said he did not operate outside of his authority and said he is qualified to be in his position. He cited several articles in the city charter with a description of his responsibilities.

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