Government

More News | | | Editor

Columbia County code officer's firing upheld by commission

Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 7:46 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 12:22 AM
  • Follow Government

The Columbia County Commission voted Tuesday to uphold the firing of Code Compliance Officer Jimmy Vowell, overturning an earlier decision by the county’s Civil Service Commission.

Vowell was fired after he entered the home of Erica Masters without permission on July 2 while serving a code violation notice. The Civil Service Commission voted unanimously in October to overturn the firing.

That decision was appealed by Columbia County Development Services Division, the department that employed Vowell. After hearing arguments from representatives of both sides, the commission ruled Vowell would not get his job back.

The Development Services Division’s case was built on confirming that Vowell entered the home without permission and later provided false information to supervisors about what happened. Vowell’s case centered on the appropriateness of the punishment.

Melissa Detchemendy, Vowell’s representative at the hearing, requested a demotion and/or transfer to another job. She said the independent nature of the Civil Service Commission added credence to its decision.

“To give him the death penalty for this violation is extreme,” she said. “We believe that, as did the Civil Service Commission.”

Detchemendy also said that Vowell entered the home because he was concerned about the occupant’s safety.

“He was at this house having been there before,” she said. “The car did not appear to have been moved. There was debris around the tires. There was a smell coming from the house and the door swung open. Yes he did walk in. He was concerned.”

Tom Cathey, representing the Development Services Division, said that not only did Vowell violate policy, he later offered conflicting testimony and only admitted entering the house when video evidence was presented.

“I really hate that he screwed up on July 2,” Cathey said. “And I really hate that he lied about it on July 3. But that’s what happened.”

Vowell said he does not consider the matter settled and he might file a lawsuit.

Masters, who recently filed a lawsuit against Columbia County and Vowell, citing emotional and physical distress, said she feels good about the decision.

“If they had rehired him it would have been like they had written me off,” she said. “It’s been hard, but my concern here is for the safety of the citizens.”

Comments (12) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
CobaltGeorge
165808
Points
CobaltGeorge 11/20/12 - 08:54 pm
8
1
You Wouldn't Be Filing A Lawsuit

if you had entered my house!

storiesihaveread
358
Points
storiesihaveread 11/20/12 - 11:52 pm
6
0
Jimmy Vowell

You really do not to file a lawsuit and waste anymore of my tax money. You walked into a house not invited on some stupid notion of being concerned. You are no longer on the police force. If you were really that concerned should have called a 911. Your stupid act might cost CC 300,000.00. On that note I agree with Cobalt George

Georgialina
7441
Points
Georgialina 11/21/12 - 02:44 am
6
0
Lucky man

Jimmy is a lucky man. As CG said, if he had entered my home his family would have gotten together for a reunion. At the very least he should be charged with Felony Burglary. We all know why Jimmy is no longer with RCSD and since he is no longer a deputy he was way over the line entering the house. Even if his lie about being concerned for the occupant’s safety was true, which if you see the video, you know he was lying.

Riverman1
87509
Points
Riverman1 11/21/12 - 07:03 am
6
0
Actually, He's Lucky

He should have been criminally charged and wasn't. I doubt he has enough to pay a judgment against him with the lawsuit, but the county stands to pay lots.

Little Lamb
47258
Points
Little Lamb 11/21/12 - 11:20 am
4
0
Citation

When Columbia County Code Enforcement officers discern a supposed violation, they do a courtesy knock on the door and attempt to get a signature. However, if no one comes to the door, they are supposed to attach the citation and leave. Vowell's action to enter was wrong. Even worse than entering was lying to his supervisor. Those two actions added up to a firing offense. The commission decision is correct.

Frank I
1192
Points
Frank I 11/21/12 - 04:07 pm
2
0
good, that is all..

good, that is all..

MarinerMan
2107
Points
MarinerMan 11/21/12 - 04:26 pm
3
0
My Last Post Was Flagged...
Unpublished

I am not defending Mr. Vowell's actions, but I will be interested to see what comes out, during the lawsuit trial. We shall see.

rebellious
21384
Points
rebellious 11/21/12 - 04:31 pm
4
0
Death Penalty? Really!

"Melissa Detchemendy, Vowell’s representative at the hearing, requested a demotion and/or transfer to another job. She said the independent nature of the Civil Service Commission added credence to its decision.

“To give him the death penalty for this violation is extreme,” she said. “We believe that, as did the Civil Service Commission.”"

He got The Death Penaly? Crap Columbia County is tough on crime!!!

Riverman1
87509
Points
Riverman1 11/21/12 - 05:59 pm
2
0
The main thrust of the

The main thrust of the woman's case with Columbia County will be the hiring of Vowell. There's no question a serious violation took place that probably caused lots of stress with the woman. The public attacks on her resulting from her charges, alone, are enough for her to seek financial retribution. Those making these personal attacks are helping her cause. She can say, "See what they are saying about me."

What's in debate is if from Vowell's past history the county should have been more cautious and not placed him in such a position of authority with the public. Whoever made the decision to hire him should be asked if they had researched his employment history with other government agencies. If there are red flags in his employment history, they will surface.

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 11/21/12 - 06:09 pm
0
0
Enter my house
Unpublished

without a warrant or invitation, I hope you and your family have made funeral arrangements in advance.

seenitB4
91139
Points
seenitB4 11/21/12 - 06:42 pm
3
0
Lucky

He is lucky to be alive.....he should lick his wounds & count his blessings.....go on with his life....tax payers will end up paying for this thoughtless act.

Little Lamb
47258
Points
Little Lamb 11/21/12 - 08:18 pm
1
0
Tactics

From a tactical standpoint, the commission's decision to uphold the firing will help them in the lawsuit. They can show that they censured his on-the-job decision to enter the home and then later lie about it with the highest penalty — termination of job.

That would leave Vowell alone to pay Masters some financial penalty.

Little Lamb
47258
Points
Little Lamb 11/21/12 - 08:26 pm
2
0
Odor

Vowell's claim of an odor emanating from the home won't pass muster. Have you noticed that Vowell repeatedly brings up the word "odor," and the media dutifully repeat it; but no one ever fleshes out the accusation and describe the odor.

Was it the odor of decaying flesh? Was it the odor of animal feces or urine? Was it the odor of someone cooking curried goat?

Riverman1
87509
Points
Riverman1 11/21/12 - 09:37 pm
1
0
LL, I find it interesting

LL, I find it interesting about the odor statement, too. It's as if Vowell believes if there were an odor present, he would have the right to enter and the county would back that decision. Vowell will have lots of testimony as to what he believes the county would approve of him doing in that situation.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Grad rates show improvement by local school systems

Graduation rates in both Richmond and Columbia counties followed the statewide trend of slow and steady increases in 2014, although progress in individual schools varied greatly.
Search Augusta jobs