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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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KSL
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KSL 07/10/12 - 05:37 pm
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I looked at the video and the

I looked at the video and the yard looked like the pits.... not the word I wanted to use.

And if she is so traumatized by this....... she was in a war zone and trained, I presume........ press charges. I suspect she is just looking for the deepest pockets to sue.

KSL
143330
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KSL 07/10/12 - 05:45 pm
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I don't believe that the

I don't believe that the Cola Co taxpayers should be on the hook for this.

Riverman1
93313
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Riverman1 07/10/12 - 05:56 pm
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She did try to press criminal charges

She did try to press criminal charges. She went to magistrate's court and showed them her video asking them to arrest the man. They said it was a civil lawsuit matter.

KSL
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KSL 07/10/12 - 06:19 pm
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Just curious, why all the

Just curious, why all the video cameras? Do you know, RM? It is not to be able to film an incident for the purpose of later legal action? What time of day did this happen? Had she been asleep all night with the door unlocked? Or not. This whole incident is bizarre. No one involved has acted appropriately.

Aceman
111
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Aceman 07/10/12 - 06:24 pm
0
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Jimmy Vowell violated her 4th

Jimmy Vowell violated her 4th Amendment right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure. If he knew that what he did was a 4th Amendment violation at the time he did it then he is personally liable. Having been an LEO in the past he knew full well that he could not enter her home without exigent circumstances. He is claiming exigent circumstances by saying that he smelled something, presumably the smell of death. Erica Masters can sue both the county and Jimmy personally and probably will. My guess is the county will settle with her to make it go away and Jimmy Vowell is about to loose everything he's got and he knows it. And it serves him right. There's no telling what he's gotten away with in the past but it's over for him now. One thing is for sure and that is this is not the first time he's done something like this, just the first time he's been caught since the last time he was caught (in Richmond County). This is just my opinion of course. That Karma thang is a real beach ain't it.

KSL
143330
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KSL 07/10/12 - 06:41 pm
1
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I don't know how GA is

I don't know how GA is anymore, thank goodness. But in SC if you want to press charges because you feel you have been wronged you call the police or the sheriff right away. Not after you have time to consult a lawyer.

Of course you can come forward years later depending on the statute of limitations and file criminal charges. But she went to magistrate's court. Who goes to magistrate's court to complain about someone entering their house illegally. I call 911. Then I call the sheriff's dept direct, all the while the intruder is at gunpoint.

This whole thing smells fishy. Could be the reporting or lack thereof.

KSL
143331
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KSL 07/10/12 - 06:57 pm
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Good info Ace, a nickname of

Good info Ace, a nickname of my husband's since high school.

I still smell a rat or a dead fish. Help us! This whole thing was so mishandled from the start, by all parties.

KSL
143331
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KSL 07/11/12 - 11:15 am
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talk about literacy level

Stewart, read the comments before attempting to insult someone. See riverman's 6:56 post:

She did try to press criminal charges. She went to magistrate's court and showed them her video asking them to arrest the man. They said it was a civil lawsuit matter.

KSL
143331
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KSL 07/11/12 - 11:21 am
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Guess my comment won't make

Guess my comment won't make sense now. For the record, I did not report your comment, dstewart.

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