The person tapped to become Glynn County’s new police chief spent 27 years at the New Jersey State Police before moving to Coastal Georgia earlier this year. In his transition to leading one the state’s most troubled forces, however, controversy from his former career still lingers.
Scott Ebner faces two pending lawsuits alleging that he presided over an environment of discrimination and favoritism as a senior leader of the New Jersey state troopers.
While Ebner, 54, has not been found liable in these cases, the allegations and his background played a role in two of five other municipalities where he has sought law enforcement jobs in the last year to drop him from contention.
When asked about the pending lawsuits at a May 31 town meeting in Brunswick, Ebner said they do not reflect the kind of police officer he is. “I’m very proud of what I’ve done in my career, the people that I have promoted, the people who I have represented and who I surround myself with, that’s what I will continue to do here,” Ebner told residents.
Last week, Glynn County commissioners voted to hire Ebner, who has been the county’s public safety director since February, to serve as police chief as well, with an annual salary for both positions at $145,000. He is not yet a certified law enforcement officer in Georgia and will go through a shortened process with the state.
County officials shrugged off the lawsuits, saying that a background check raised no red flags. “When lawsuits come up, they include pretty much everybody in the leadership or the executive ranks,” County Manager Bill Fallon said. “They’re not named personally … they’re named because of their titles.”
Yet a review of court records from New Jersey show that Ebner’s personal conduct is central to allegations in a pending lawsuit filed by female New Jersey State Police troopers. They claim that he was part of a group of executive officers who sidelined women from leadership roles and retaliated against those who complained.
Part of Ebner’s tenure at the New Jersey State Patrol was in positions in charge of promotions. The agency has long been faulted for basing promotions solely off supervisors’ opinions of employees, instead of an independent committee or civil service testing.
A pastor in Kansas City, where Ebner was a finalist for the police chief position last year, told KCUR radio “You don’t have to look hard to find negative marks on these guys” referring to Ebner and another candidate.
Glynn County became part of America’s racial reckoning in 2020 after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery by three white men. County police originally wrote off the death as a justified shooting, and it took 74 days for any of the killers to be arrested. They are now serving life sentences for his killing.
Amid community outrage, the county commissioners hired their first Black police chief in its history, but he left after just more than a year complaining of a lack of support by county leaders for changes he wanted to make to the force known for a history of implicit bias against people of color.
“(I was) tired of being beaten up every day, internally and externally, for what I’m trying to accomplish,” Battiste said, “Because it’s slow turning the ship when that ship is always on the same course.”
Battiste left the job in mid-December, and Ebner was hired as public safety director in February. He was not a leading candidate in the police chief search until late in the recruitment process, Fallon said in an interview with The Current.
The top candidate to become police chief had been Glynn County’s interim chief O’Neal Jackson, Fallon said. The Board of Commissioners did not choose Jackson, who is Black, nor other top candidates. Ebner, who is white, then offered himself as an option for chief, according to Fallon, and the commissioners accepted.
Ebner started his policing career in Cape Coral, Fla., in 1991, before being hired as a New Jersey State Police trooper in 1995. He said he spent a number of years out on patrol and working on criminal investigations before spending his last decade in management, overseeing a department of 3,300 sworn officers.
Early in his career, Ebner attracted controversy.
In September 1998, he pulled over the top prosecutor in New Jersey’s Essex County in a traffic stop, according to the New York Times. State Police said it had received multiple 911 calls of erratic driving regarding the prosecutor’s car that night, but the prosecutor, who is Black, accused Ebner of racially profiling her. Ebner was cleared of wrongdoing, and a year later, he sued the ex-prosecutor for defamation, an action he later dropped.
In 2017, he made headlines after NJSP fought a legal suit requesting the release of agency pay stubs and overtime records. Ebner argued in support of keeping those records out of the public eye, saying in a court filing that “terrorists and other wrong-doers” could use the information to figure out trooper’s assignments and put the public in danger, according to NJ.com. A judge ruled against the state patrol.
In 2019, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and administration branch commander. In that job, he approved promotions for senior officers, oversaw the agency’s ethics and helped resecure its national accreditation, according to his resume.
From 2017 to 2023, four lawsuits filed by state troopers accused Ebner and other NJSP leaders of workplace discrimination, according to a review of court records by The Current.
One of the four suits was dismissed, and a judge in a second dropped Ebner as a defendant.
A third, filed two months ago named Ebner and other officials for alleged disability discrimination, but it did not describe any specific conduct by Ebner. NJSP and Ebner have not yet responded to the complaint.
Conduct toward women
The fourth suit, filed in 2021 by state troopers Wanda Stojanov, Dawn Curran, Claire Krauchuk and Rebecca Hotchkin, refers to specific alleged conduct by Ebner and his attitudes towards women in policing, according to court records.
This complaint described NJSP’s “long and notorious history” of gender discrimination. It included over 20 years of complaints and lawsuits from female troopers who said they were sexually harassed or treated differently than men at the agency. NJSP has been dinged for years for basing promotions solely off supervisors’ opinions of employees, instead of an independent committee or civil service testing.
Stojanov, who started the same year as Ebner, said she rose through the ranks, took leadership roles and received over a dozen commendations. Her career stalled in 2017 when Ebner allegedly “tried to have her ousted” from her position twice, she said. She said she objected openly and the transfers were rescinded, her lawsuit stated.
Ebner excluded Stojanov from interviewing for seven promotions to major after she spoke out, the lawsuit alleged.
In response to the suit, the NJSP announced it would create a more transparent system for those promotions. In that system, Stojanov got promoted to major, according to the suit.
Ebner tried to interfere in that process, according to court documents. “It is known by the several women in the State Police that Ebner treats women differently and has a clear bias against female enlisted members,” Stojanov alleged.
On May 23, 2023, a state judge ruled that the allegations presented in the lawsuit were sufficient to go to trial. The case is still pending.
By last spring, Ebner had retired from NJSP and started applying for police chief jobs across the country.
He was a finalist for chief jobs in Prescott Valley, Ariz., Honolulu, Aurora, Colo., Kansas City, Mo., and Santa Fe, N.M., according to news reports.
In Aurora and Kansas City, Black residents balked against the announced finalists and called for new candidates and more transparency in the hiring process.
In October 2022, a Black state representative for Aurora told a news outlet: “This was not done with thoughtfulness, and it was not done with respect, yet they want our support.” Ebner became the sole finalist after another candidate dropped out, and the city decided to start the search over to find new candidates, reports said.
In December 2022, Black residents in Kansas City criticized the city’s search process that led them to select Ebner and another candidate as a finalist. A pastor said “a simple Google search” should have disqualified both of them, referring to Ebner’s pending lawsuits and a road rage offense on the other candidate’s record.
The city ended up choosing an internal candidate.
Note: The story has been corrected to reflect that Scott Ebner was hired by Glynn County in February 2023, after Jacques Battiste decided to retire.