Former Johns Creek police chief reaches ‘golden parachute’ settlement with city

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has obtained documents related to the internal affairs investigation into former Johns Creek Police Chief Chris Byers, showing he violated the city’s harassment policy.

Some in the community told Channel 2′s Mike Petchenik that Byers is walking away with what they are calling a golden parachute.

“I think they were looking for a reason to investigate him, not get rid of him,” said Attorney Darryl B. Cohen, who now represents Byers.

Cohen believes that reason arose after Byers criticized the Black Lives Matter movement on his personal Facebook page. The post sparked protests and calls for his job.

After post on Byers’ personal Facebook page criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement, the city suspended Byers over another, separate sexual harassment allegation they claim came to light during department listening sessions.

According to a report compiled by an outside law firm, a female subordinate told investigators she was "flabbergasted" when Byers made lewd comments to her in front of a group of employees last December before he was the chief.

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The report said the accuser didn't want to complain to HR because she didn't trust its director and didn't want a "target on her back."

She told investigators that Byers confronted her about reporting it to her commander and possibly hurting his chances of becoming chief.

Byers told investigators the pair had a "long running joke" and he denied using vulgar language despite witness accounts corroborating it.

“It was something that she initiated. She was known for initiating that. She’s good people, but she was one of the guys. Not one of the women and guys,” Cohen told Petchenik.

Records show investigators concluded Byers’ comments violated the city’s harassment policy.

When he resigned Aug. 11, the city paid him $325,000 in a confidential settlement.

“He received his settlement because he deserved it. He was harassed for no reason and I think you’ll find that the report is not only inaccurate, but it’s not complete,” Cohen said. “If he had done anything that was alleged, would he have come away with this type of parachute.”

Petchenik has learned the accuser has hired an attorney, Mike O’Hagan, and is exploring legal action against the city.

O’Hagan sent Petchenik a statement Friday, saying:

“It was brought to the attention of city management that there may have been improper sexual comments made by Chief Byers (Major Byers at the time the statements were made) to a civilian employee. City management then initiated an investigation and the victim was cooperative with the investigation. It is believed that multiple witnesses were interviewed to corroborate the statement made by Chief Byers that stemmed the basis of the sexual harassment investigation.”