Home of the Masters

No one is above the law -- not even public employees

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We’re not sure how someone with the wherewithal to have video surveillance of her home can’t manage to get her grass cut.

But we’re glad Erica Masters of Martinez did have cameras keeping an eye on her home – otherwise the world might never have believed her tale.

And the world does, indeed, know about it.

Jimmy Vowell, a code compliance officer for Columbia County, was trying to serve notice to Masters July 2 that she needed to mow her overgrown yard. So far so good. Such neglect tends to depress home values and decrease the quality of life for neighbors. Fact is, codes aren’t enforced strictly enough in this country.

But Vowell entered the apparently unlocked home uninvited – and woke up a startled Masters.

Vowell initially lied to his supervisor about the incident, saying he didn’t enter the home uninvited. But the woman had video footage of him walking in.

After a brief investigation, the county fired Vowell, as it should have.

Let this serve as a citizens’ notice right back to code compliance officers and every other government official across the land: Our homes are still our castles. You have no right to come in uninvited, absent a search warrant or blazing emergency.

One hopes that lesson isn’t lost, even as widespread as the story has been. It got so much media attention that Masters was invited to be on NBC’s Today Show Thursday.

The debacle sure made Columbia County look bad. And it’s a good bet the burg won’t get much credit around the world for having done the right thing and firing the offending officer. Perhaps that’s karma: The county may have been foolish to hire him to begin with, after he’d earlier resigned from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department for spiriting away an unclaimed and condemned laptop computer from the evidence room.

Yes, it was headed for the heap. But we can’t have law enforcement officers just divvying up unclaimed merchandise like so much booty, especially on a freelance basis. In most quarters, that’s still theft.

Another thing: When Masters called 9-1-1 to report a strange man in her house, the dispatcher declined to send a deputy because the man was a county employee.

Say what? In other words, there’s no way a county employee can be out of line enough to send a deputy? Are they such saints?

We’re told that’s county policy. Well, if so, that’s one condescending and dangerous policy. They’re just lucky Vowell was as harmless as he was clueless. But luck is a poor substitute for sound thinking. We urge Columbia County to order dispatchers to send a deputy if a citizen believes someone is in the process of breaking a law – even if it’s a county employee.

No one is above the law or suspicion.

We also hope that the publi-city surrounding this case will inspire governments around the country to remind their charges that our homes are still our castles, and we, like Erica, are masters of them.

Comments (11) Add comment
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Riverman1
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Riverman1 07/13/12 - 05:30 am
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Excellent Editorial

Security cameras don't cost that much money, by the way, and she has a roommate. Vowell continued his lies until the end. Several reporters have been inside her home and no one reported a smell. He was also on the Today Show and repeated that story. What a liar. If you knew this man's track record like some of us do you would understand. It goes far beyond his trouble at the RCSO.

Citizens of Columbia County are lucky she caught him on camera and saved others grief. Remember the BTK Killer was a code enforcement officer, too.

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 07/13/12 - 09:25 am
4
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And yet,

Our real battle is probably not going to be against the Jimmy Vowells of the world, but against the United Nations and the US enablers over our Constitutional right to own guns for home defense and the like.

Crossbows, anyone?

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 07/13/12 - 09:26 am
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Oh, and

Nice editorial.

Willow Bailey
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Willow Bailey 07/13/12 - 09:33 am
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Excellent editorial.

Excellent editorial.

allhans
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allhans 07/13/12 - 09:35 am
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Let's say one good thing for

Let's say one good thing for Vowell. After doing the wrong thing, he then told her to come outside to talk and left the house.

David Parker
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David Parker 07/13/12 - 12:53 pm
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Going Che!

If the UN or anybody tries to take our guns, it's time

scorehouse
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scorehouse 07/13/12 - 06:35 pm
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morons
Unpublished

why not let Vowell cut the grass? i haven't read about any resolution to the problem? let's shoot the messenger and to hello with the message. these people that trash neighborhoods should be held accountable. i'd treat her yard with roundup and forgetaboutit!

Bantana
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Bantana 07/13/12 - 07:21 pm
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1
i do believe the united

i do believe the united nations has enough on it's plate with current peace keeping operations and coordinating relief efforts that gun-toting citizens of the good ol usa needn't worry about that organization trying to take away our guns.

KSL
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KSL 07/13/12 - 08:15 pm
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Probably not on the dinner

Probably not on the dinner plate, but definitely on the dessert plate.

KSL
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KSL 07/13/12 - 08:32 pm
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The UN is not an American

The UN is not an American user friendly entity.

itsanotherday1
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itsanotherday1 07/13/12 - 09:48 pm
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"The UN is not an American

"The UN is not an American user friendly entity."

Nope. It is a playground for dictators, socialists, etc.

okletssee
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okletssee 07/14/12 - 01:59 pm
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This was a great editorial! I

This was a great editorial! I will say that most of us are wise to the many " unspoken" rules/laws broken daily by officers and county employees. Its acceptable UNTIL you get yourself thrown into the public spotlight. Although this person J. Vowell is really a harmless man and a good Father.... He did have one warning.... He will once again be made an example for things that are done and accepted every day....Because of the Cameras. STILL WRONG but Im not fooled ONE BIT... these Practices go on daily. Just like the laptop... Goes on ALL THE TIME AND IS AN UNSPOKEN " benefit".

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