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GBI investigating Austell Police Chief


Austell Police Chief Bob Starrett is under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) related to the department’s K-9 expenses. Starrett has been Austell police chief for more than 20 years.

In addition to serving as the top cop for the last two decades, Starrett also serves on the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission. He is one of seven appointees whose job is to oversee the regulated licensing of limited, in-state cultivation, production, manufacturing, and sale of low-THC oil as well as dispensing to registered patients on the state’s Low-THC Oil Registry.

The investigation began after a news outlet sent an Open Records Request for veterinary bills to the Austell Police Department. Before the records were made available, the city confirmed the GBI had been called to investigate the veterinary charges. FOX-5 had received a tip to examine the vet bills for the department’s K-9 Unit and the Open Records Request was filed.

FOX-5 news had been reporting that Chief Starrett was not coming into the office. After an Open Records Request for personnel records, it was learned that Deputy Chief Natalie Paulk had been promoted to interim chief. It was soon determined that the city had two police chiefs it was paying on the city payroll. City leaders declined to provide answers to questions about a GBI investigation of their police chief. Mayor Ollie Clemons later said he was allowing Starrett to work from home until he retired early next year and said the chief was rewriting the police operating procedures. 

After discovering discrepancies, Austell police went to Bullard Animal Hospital to access the vet bills, but the employees initially did not want to turn them over. The Austell Police Department found discrepancies in the documents provided to them and called in the GBI.

In a statement, the GBI confirmed the investigation saying, “On Monday, November 29, 2021, the Austell Police Department asked the GBI to look into allegations of wrongdoings by Chief Bob Starrett surrounding the Austell P.D. K9 Unit. The investigation is active and ongoing.” 

It is unclear at this time if the GBI investigation will impact Starett’s continued role on the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission.


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