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Columbia County fires code officer

Monday, July 9, 2012 5:19 PM
Last updated Tuesday, July 10, 2012 9:07 PM
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A Columbia County code compliance officer accused of entering a Martinez home without permission was fired Monday.

Columbia County sheriff’s investigators completed an investigation Friday into a July 2 incident in which Erica Masters claimed that Jimmy Vowell came into her home uninvited.

The investigation didn’t result in criminal charges against Vowell because the sheriff’s office investigators found no criminal intent, Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson said.

County Development Services Division Director Richard Harmon and the county human resources director reviewed the investigation findings and opted to terminate Vowell.

“It was a violation of policy as it relates to entering a house without permission,” Johnson said, “and making a false statement to a supervisor.”

Vowell initially denied entering Masters’ home, where he was serving a violation notice for having overgrown grass. He claimed he smelled something coming from the house and called out several times, according to a Facebook message Vowell sent to The Columbia County News-Times Publisher Barry Paschal a few days after the incident. When he knocked, Vowell said the front door swung open.

Masters woke to Vowell talking from her bedroom doorway. Vowell asked Masters to come outside to sign the notice and waited in her living room as she dressed.

Masters said she called 911. But when the dispatcher learned that the man inside her home was a county employee, the dispatcher transferred her to Vowell’s supervisor and didn’t send a deputy to her home.

She left a message with the supervisor and the sheriff’s office contacted her for a statement. Masters also provided footage of the incident from surveillance video cameras inside and outside her home.

Vowell was on administrative leave during the investigation.

County policy says that a home is never to be entered without permission unless there are extenuating circumstances, Johnson said.

Masters has said she plans to seek civil action and move from the county as a result of the incident.

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Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 07/10/12 - 10:15 am
1
0
The 911 dispatcher

made a serious error in judgment, in my opinion. The dispatcher transferred Ms. Masters to Vowell's supervisor's number, and all Masters got was an answering machine recording. The dispatcher should have ensured that Ms. Masters got through to a responsible supervisor in the department and/or dispatched a sheriff's deputy to the scene.

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 07/10/12 - 10:22 am
2
0
Code Enforcement

The Columbia County Code of Ordinances is available on line at the county's web site. Here is what I found about lawns:
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Section 34-31 – Definitions.

Weeds means all rank vegetative growth including, but not limited to kudzu, poison ivy, jimsonweed, burdock, ragweed, thistle, cocklebur, dandelion, plants of obnoxious odors, or other similar unsightly vegetative growth; however this term shall not include cultivated flowers, fruits and vegetables and gardens.

Section 34-32 – Declaration.

The following are specifically declared to be nuisances:

(7) Weeds and other unkept or uncultivated vegetation in excess of 12 inches in height; provided, however, that this provision shall not apply to such a condition if it exists on:

a. A lot or tract of land greater than one acre in size; or

b. Land located in a R-A residential agricultural zoning district.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Was Code Enforcement Officer Vowell seriously trying to cite Ms. Masters for a violation of this ordinance? Was her lawn truly higher than twelve inches? Sure, in this weather some bahaiagrass seed stalks might poke up above 12 inches, but you know that bahaiagrass seed stalks reappear about two days after mowing.

Come on folks, let's have a little more tolerance for our neighbors’ lawn appearances in these days of 100° temperatures and exceptional drought declarations.

Riverman1
86917
Points
Riverman1 07/10/12 - 11:46 am
1
1
Her yard wasn't that bad. I

Her yard wasn't that bad. I saw it on the video. I'm glad they say that about the size of lots because the yards around me are about half woods including mine.

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 07/10/12 - 11:54 am
1
0
Don't Be Hasty

In the last sentence, Valerie Rowell wrote:

Masters has said she plans to seek civil action and move from the county as a result of the incident.

She had better not move to Richmond County. The Richmond County ordinance on lawns limits the height to six inches or you are subject to citation. She'd better stick to Columbia County where it's twelve inches.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 07/10/12 - 12:05 pm
0
0
@ LL You know another point

@ LL

You know another point to make is that folks who own property that is adjacent to woods, or property with nobody living on it. Those properties are allowed to over-grow due to the items you mention, but they make it more difficult for the adjacent properties to maintain. As we all know, Creeping Charlie does just that....it creeps.

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 07/10/12 - 12:43 pm
2
1
Each time I revisit this

... I get more and more disgusted. For the enablers coming on here to blame the victim, let me point out this was not a "he said, she said." This is the tale of the videotape, period. As to the character assassination, it would not matter if she were the biblical Whore of Babylon in her bed clubbing baby seals- there was NO legal reason for this pervert to be in her bedroom.

Some more questions spring to mind:

How many times has this guy gotten away with this before he was caught?

Enough that the dispatcher knew not to send a deputy?

How many 'unsolved' peepers would following this guy around solve?

As for the dispatcher, is he/she a sworn police officer, and if so, did he/she swear to uphold the law, except where certain individuals were concerned? Or take it with fingers crossed?

Corrupt is as corrupt does; not to send an officer when the perp is still on premises? That only makes sense if the department has some sort of "do not respond" list.

How did she get on it, and who else does the Sheriff think doesn't get police protection?

(I base this last on the fact the dispatcher is still working.)

Aceman
111
Points
Aceman 07/10/12 - 01:24 pm
0
1
Sure is a lot of character

Sure is a lot of character assassination in THAT post. My post got pulled. Why I don't know. Everything in it was either the truth, which can be substantiated, or my opinion about the people involved. Isn't that what this forum is for? The AC should look into what I said. It would add another interesting dimension to this story, which obviously has garnered enormous interest. Feel free to contact me AC and I can point you in the right direction on where to find this information.

Sean Moores
717
Points
Sean Moores 07/10/12 - 01:58 pm
2
0
Aceman

I did let the reporter know what you posted. I will also send her your contact information in case she wants to get in touch with you.

Aceman
111
Points
Aceman 07/10/12 - 02:22 pm
0
0
Why was the original post

Why was the original post deleted?

Riverman1
86917
Points
Riverman1 07/10/12 - 02:35 pm
1
0
DStewart, I agree with everything but...

DStewart, I agree with everything but the criticism of the 911 operator. I know one of them and she's a great person. I'm pretty sure they are sworn officers and wear uniforms, etc. I don't know if she was the one involved here and I hope not. I'd like to hear the 911 audio before passing judgment. We all know it was wrong not to send a deputy, but maybe there was a misunderstanding. Either way, I think the county owes her, especially if it were intentional.

Sean Moores
717
Points
Sean Moores 07/10/12 - 03:05 pm
2
0
Aceman

Check your email. If it is not accurate on your profile, email me and I will fix it.

Riverman1
86917
Points
Riverman1 07/10/12 - 03:26 pm
2
0
I'm hearing this young lady

I'm hearing this young lady being trashed in the media. Pointing out she has a nice car and can't cut her grass is blaming the victim like nothing I've ever seen. Have we lost our common sense?

Some agree Vowell shouldn't have gone in, but then want to go on a diatribe against the woman. I don't get it. This could have been anyone. What did she have to do with a man walking to her bedroom and STANDING there for awhile?

The woman served honorably in the military for 5 years. She served in Iraq and got a medical discharge. I know some people who couldn't make it through basic training or boot camp.

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 07/10/12 - 03:27 pm
1
1
RM1,

I know a number of peace officers; and almost to a (wo)man, they're fine people. But that has nothing to do with this situational failure; this stinks to high heaven. Unless the Chronicle is being complicit in this --which I do not find believable-- why are there no consequences for what is obvious breach of public trust and incompetence? No questions being asked except on this forum? If you know more than is being told, share!

Riverman1
86917
Points
Riverman1 07/10/12 - 03:39 pm
2
0
Am I missing something?

Does anyone believe this woman enticed Vowell into her home or something? I mean what's this with blaming the victim? Do we ever justify such actions? Are you saying HE KNEW HER? If you are I don't believe it and it sounds like something he would come up with.

I don't care anything about her history, but, honest to God, it's not that bad. Keeping chickens in her yard means a big fat guy can come to her bedroom door?

Dstewart, no prob., we are on the same page here. I am hoping Col. Cty. explains about the 911 call. Something was wrong, no doubt.

It's time for the public to get behind her and start complaining loudly. Firing him was only the first step.

Riverman1
86917
Points
Riverman1 07/10/12 - 04:01 pm
2
0
Really disgusting to hear

Really disgusting to hear people who never served in the military trashing her in other media. She served honorably for 6 years.

Now let's tell the rest of the story since some ill informed people are slamming her for who knows what reason. She just got out of the military on a medical discharge after 6 years of honorable service. Her income dropped drastically while she is waiting for Social Security income to start for her disability. Now don't her foes feel badly?

Aceman
111
Points
Aceman 07/10/12 - 04:47 pm
0
1
Riverman I would never defend

Riverman I would never defend what Jimmy did. He disgusts me for reasons not related to this incident and what he did was wrong and he deserved to get fired. He will be damn lucky if he doesn't get sued for violating her civil rights for illegally entering her house, which he clearly did. But just because she served in the military doesn't make her above reproach. When she said on tv that taxpayer money should not be paying the salary of someone like Jimmy it really got under my skin knowing what I know about her. It was the pot calling the kettle black and it really ticked me off. I have the utmost respect for anyone who serves in the military and especially if they serve in the Middle East but that does not exclude them from criticism if it is warranted. I said my piece and the AC deleted the post. If you saw it you can do the legwork yourself and you will see what I am talking about. There is more there than just a noise complaint. That is all I am going to say about it.

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 07/10/12 - 04:03 pm
1
1
Not holding my breath

...until the sheriff's department comes out with something believable by way of explanation. Lived in CC for 35 plus years, and this, this is business as usual.

Aceman
111
Points
Aceman 07/10/12 - 04:06 pm
0
0
If she has a good lawyer he

If she has a good lawyer he will know what to do and it ain't gonna be pretty for the county.

Karen Slater-McDaniel
3100
Points
Karen Slater-McDaniel 07/10/12 - 04:10 pm
1
0
Aceman you are about to get

Aceman you are about to get another post pulled.

I will just give you a friendly warning because Sean told me this the other day ... if you look back at your post and see [filtered word] you better correct it before they pull it. We had a conversation via email about what words are and are not acceptable to be posted. He will tell you too if you email and ask.

seenitB4
90795
Points
seenitB4 07/10/12 - 04:16 pm
1
0
Let us say she killed the man

Ok what if?? She killed the man standing in her home....could have easily happened ...what would we say then...'
He really really took a chance walking in that house LIKE THAT....& we all know IT!

justthefacts
22710
Points
justthefacts 07/10/12 - 04:18 pm
0
0
7 words

Are they the same 7 words that George Carlin said you can't say on Television?

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 07/10/12 - 04:23 pm
1
1
Been interesting

...but I'm going out and cutting my grass. Don't want to have to shoot some minion of the county in my bedroom, you know.

seenitB4
90795
Points
seenitB4 07/10/12 - 04:29 pm
1
0
stewart

Wear some protection stewart..it is hot out there..

Karen Slater-McDaniel
3100
Points
Karen Slater-McDaniel 07/10/12 - 04:55 pm
0
0
SeenIt Stewart said he's

SeenIt Stewart said he's going to cut grass NOT ... Oh, I get it ... you were referring to sunscreen :p

justthefacts
22710
Points
justthefacts 07/10/12 - 04:59 pm
0
0
LOL

Yeah, I let that one go....

Karen Slater-McDaniel
3100
Points
Karen Slater-McDaniel 07/10/12 - 05:01 pm
0
0
Justthefacts ... yep those 7

Justthefacts ... yep those 7 words are on the list ... as are a few more actual words AND implied words (i.e., the words we think we are hiding with %$#*&). Lol

But I do still love George Carlin:

"Then there are some things that sound too funny to eat. Some things are too humorous to swallow. Guacamole. That sounds like something you yell when you're on fire. GUACAMOLE! Or sounds like something you can't remember the name of. "Where's that little…guacamole I had here?"

And here is your 7 words:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgZZ82tp5es

seenitB4
90795
Points
seenitB4 07/10/12 - 05:01 pm
1
0
hehe

Yall both are naughty naughty......my kind of people.:)

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 07/10/12 - 05:25 pm
0
1
Sun protection:

Into a tall glass, crush a thick slice of lime; add a splash of gin; evaluate; add another splash of gin; throw in ice cubes; add a leeetle more gin; fill with tonic (low calorie) to ward off malaria, of course; add bend-y straw. Consume in front of nearest operating fan. Repeat.

Riverman1
86917
Points
Riverman1 07/10/12 - 05:28 pm
2
1
People slamming her need to

People slamming her need to think a little bit. She is a victim.

Riverman1
86917
Points
Riverman1 07/10/12 - 06:16 pm
1
1
An Important Question

Can someone tell me if Jimmy Vowell, the Code guy, had info this young lady, a veteran, who had complaints against her for her chickens and grass lived alone? Would Vowell know the previous citation only had her name on them? I think that's important considering the way he CAREFULLY walked in.

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