The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a Martinez woman’s claim that a county Code Enforcement officer walked into her home without permission.
The woman said she woke Monday morning to a man standing in her bedroom doorway.
The man was Code Enforcement Officer Jimmy Vowell, who was at the home to serve a violation notice because her grass was too tall. Having grass more than 12 inches tall is against the property maintenance county ordinance. It can breed pests and is not aesthetically pleasing, county Development Services Division Director Richard Harmon said.
“We were made aware of this (Monday),” county Administrator Scott Johnson said Tuesday. “We put Jimmy on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.”
The woman said she called 911, and was referred to Vowell’s supervisor, Environmental Compliance Manager Mike Anderson, Johnson said.
Even though a report was not filed with the sheriff’s office, Johnson said county officials asked the sheriff’s office to investigate the incident, which the woman captured on surveillance video at her home.
“Certainly it is an issue that is troubling,” Johnson said. “We feel it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
The video shows Vowell knocking on the woman’s door before walking into the house and then to the doorway of her bedroom.
The county policy on entering a home is to never enter a home without permission.
“(Policy) is the exact opposite,” Johnson said. “We don’t enter a residence without permission in code enforcement unless there are extenuating circumstances.”
Vowell was originally hired as an erosion and sediment control officer and has the necessary certifications. His job description changed to include code compliance during restructuring, Harmon said.
Vowell is a Level I Code Enforcement Officer certified by the Georgia Association of Code Enforcement through the University of Georgia. He also is scheduled for a Master class in August. Vowell also is retaking an exam he previously failed to receive an International Code Council Property Maintenance Code certification, Harmon said.
Sheriff’s office personnel are investigating the matter, including possible criminal charges. The investigation could be complete as early as Wednesday, Capt. Steve Morris said.
Harmon said Vowell went to the woman's home to serve a violation notice for not maintaining her grass because someone filed a complaint with the county.
"This wasn't the first time," Harmon said of complaints about the woman's overgrown grass.