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Code Enforcement officer won't be charged

Posted: July 6, 2012 - 7:22pm

Twitter @ValerieRowell

A Columbia County Code Compliance officer accused of going into a Martinez woman’s home uninvited won’t face criminal charges.

The Columbia County sheriff’s investigators completed an investigation Friday into a Monday incident where Code Compliance Officer Jimmy Vowell was accused of entering a Martinez woman’s home without permission.

Capt. Steve Morris said Vowell won’t be charged and the findings of the investigation were released to Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson.

Erica Masters said she woke Monday to Vowell talking to her from her bedroom doorway.

“I had on no glasses or contacts,” Masters said. “I could see his figure in my doorway.”

Vowell was there to serve a violation notice to Masters 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. When he knocked, Vowell said the front door swung open.

“I had no idea who lived there or even if anyone did,” Vowell wrote in the message. “I had no idea if someone was hurt, dead or what. ... From what I saw and (smelled), I reacted on instincts telling me something was not right in that house.”

Masters said everything was alright except that she was scared when she was woken from sleep by a stranger in her home. 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 found out 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.

“I just feel like, ‘I’m violated and you’re not going to send a deputy to my house to check on me to make sure I’m okay?’” Masters said.

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

Johnson said Vowell was put on administrative leave during the investigation the sheriff’s office conducted.

“Certainly it is an issue that is troubling,” Johnson said Wednesday. “We feel it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

The policy on entering a home is to never enter a home without permission unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Masters said Vowell entering her home was scary.

“I wake up every hour or every other hour, I want to check all the locks,” Masters said Friday. “I’ve never been this way, so it’s a big blow.”

Masters said Vowell might have knocked, but she didn’t hear it in the bedroom.

She said she intends to seek civil action against the county for not properly handling the complaint by sending a deputy to her home. She also contends the county didn’t properly check Vowell’s background before hiring him.

Vowell, a former Richmond County sheriff’s sergeant, resigned in 2004 after he admitted taking a laptop computer that was slated to be destroyed from the evidence room, according to a story published at the time in The Augusta Chronicle.

Now, Masters said she plans to move out of Columbia County.

“I still think the county was neglectful,” she said. “... This is going to create animosity between me and the county. ... I really can’t trust the county not to hire the right people not to do this again.”

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Comments (56)

BobbyHodges

No good deed...

No good deed...

Riverman1

Does his mother work for the

Does his mother work for the court?

Riverman1

911 tape??

I'd like to hear the 911 tape and see if it can be determined why a deputy wasn't sent to the house when she called.

Just My Opinion

I'm telling you, this just

I'm telling you, this just sounds wrong. Did he really smell "something", or did he just know that that was a good excuse that he could always get by with? If he did smell "something", wouldn't you think he'd call somebody (fire?) before entering? And why in the heck didn't the police send somebody out there, even if it was verified that it was a county employee?(What? County employees can't break the law??) I don't know. Maybe there's just not enough info in the article and the county DOES have enough good info to clear the guy.

justputtin

Background check?

Jimmy Vowell lost his job because he took a laptop that had been sitting for two + years in storage and was to be destroyed. It was after a disgruntled girlfriend turned him in when they broke up that put the sheriffs dept in a bad situation. This woman doesn't sound stable. Obviously his intent was to assist or something else would have happened.

Riverman1

Masters Seems Stable to Me

She sounds emotionally stable and reliable. You can't blame a woman who wakes up to find a man at her bedroom. Then he doesn't leave? He goes to the living room. No wonder she called 911. The county needs to settle with her fast for a considerable sum. The CCSO needs to charge the man fast.

ripjones256

Deputy Should Have Been Dispatched

The 'third nose' would have resolved the "smell" excuse. As I stated earlier, there sure were a BUNCH of cameras in that house. Scorned girlfriend will sell you out every time. If all is true about the laptop, I don't think he should have been fired. Maybe a probation period. The method might have been fractured, but why destroy something that can be used by someone ? We sell used equipment to employees, rather than destroying it.

melecla1

code enforcement "officer"

he should be charged and fired. "Smelled" something? What's next, a dog catcher creeps thru someones bedroom window because he thinks he hears a dog whining? What right does a code enforcement "officer" have to enter your house? He's lucky he didn't enter some other house..he might have got his wanna be a** blown away. TGE (typical government employee)...give them a little authority, and they think they can do anything. As far as stealing a laptop, I think if I stole something that was in my neighbors back yard for two years, I would have been hauled away by this same EX-"officer" for theft.

meriwether123

Riverman..

Hey, can you send me a PM here? Tried to send you one, but it won't let me. Or an emaill address to the same user name (meriwether123) at yahoo would work too.

Riverman1

Ripjones said, "As I stated

Ripjones said, "As I stated earlier, there sure were a BUNCH of cameras in that house."

What's your point? What's wrong with having security cameras at a house?

justputtin

I blew it

After reading the article again, I was wrong in saying the woman was not stable. I know jimmy to be a good person and read into the story what I assumed to be the case. My apologies.

Riverman1

About Code Enforcement

I'll just make another point about Code Enforcement. It's not like they only go to terrible, unkempt places. I live out on the river and it's not a formal neighborhood. A house down from me was bought and being renovated. The grass around that house grew up as often happens when people buy, renovate and are moving in. Apparently someone reported them silly as it was. The Code Enforcement lady went to their house and no one was home, so she came over and asked me about them. That's how I knew about it. Honestly, the yard was not that bad. The point is a house-yard doesn't have to be horrendous to get a visit from them. I wouldn't view this young lady in a disparaging way.

Sweet son

Former Police Officer acting on Instincts

Good job Steve Morris and Investigators!

Riverman1

With the current evidence

With the current evidence, if she goes to Magistrate's Court, there's no way he won't be charged. It is clearly not county policy that one of these county employees can enter your home, regardless of the reason. Res ipsa loquitor.

In addition as far as civil actions, it's pretty clear what happened. The only question is the amount of the damages. I think they would be pretty high.

Sweet son

@Riverman

There is no way you can use the term "current evidence" unless you have read a police report and have been advised of ALL of the follow up investigation that was conducted. Newspaper articles usually contain some errors and some editorial work on the part of the writer.

What will she do when she get's to Magistrate's Court?

And the big pay out that you keep referring to probably would not originate in lowly Magistrate's Court.

soldout

interesting

her facebook page is interesting

Riverman1

Sweetson

Sweetson, oh, I'd guess a CIVIL suit will have little to do with Magistrate's Court. I also guess she would go to Magistrate's Court for different reasons. By the way, I can use the term current evidence because I, in fact, have information in detail, some public, some not, some in police reports, some not.

Riverman1

Soldout, are you sure it's

Soldout, are you sure it's HER facebook page? I think not.

Concerned Friend

Good old boy system is alive

Good old boy system is alive and well in Columbia County. Yeah he took a computer and gave it to his girlfriend in Richmond County without anyone's approval. I don't know about you but taking anything that does not belong to you without permission is STEALING! What else has he taken out of the evidence room? He resigned before Sheriff Strength fired him. He had numerous tribunal hearings for one reason or another prior to the firing for the computer issue! He should be fired and charged for these actions. Columbia County turns it shoulders to one of their own supposedly providing a service to the taxpayers!!!

Big Dawg

soapy_725

Was the door locked?

If so, did he pick the lock or break down the door? We hope that when he comes to our house, his insurance is paid up to date. Unacceptable action. Beyond the scope of his job description. No training, obviously. CC public servants to my knowledge do not "look for additional work", i.e. criminal investigation. Another "cowboy" on his own. Smell gas, call gas company. Smell death, call police. Smell drugs, check first to make sure the license plate is not from West Lake. No silt screens, drive on. No port a potie, drive on. No trash bins, drive on. If this home were under construction he would not have gotten out of his county vehicle. Park and look. Reality. If nothing else, sue him, and help his future victims. Right to person and property? He probably does this on a routine basis for jollies and has never been caught. What is she were not at home? An old laptop laying on the bed waiting to be rescued? This could be some business venture for the right man and the right opportunities?
Nip it in the bud. Nip it now. For the reputation of the department. Because CC citizens have an expectation of privacy in their own homes.

soapy_725

If he is not fired

for gross violations of his job and public conduct, then there is a coverup. He knows something on someone else. Or his department.

Riverman1

How Many Tiime Has Vowell Been Married?

I'm hearing Vowell has been married a ridiculous number of times. Does anyone know exactly?

Fiat_Lux

This ain't right

Vowell is not a cop any more and he had no business walking into a private home uninvited. If he was so concerned, he should have called the police or fire department himself.

In reality, he's lucky he didn't get shot. If he'd done that to me, I would have nailed him. Ms. Masters needs to get a good dog.

soldout

Riverman she is making

Riverman she is making comments about it on her facebook page so I assume it has to be her.

Riverman1

Soldout...okay

Nevermind. My misunderstanding. Sorry

Sweet son

Here you go Riverman

You keep talking about the big payout I don't think Magistrate Court is the place you want to start when you file your suit against someone.

Check the amount.

I am also glad you have a mole who gives you the scoop.

http://www.columbiacountyga.gov/Index.aspx?page=2910

cabanaboy

code enforcement

BTK serial killer Dennis Rader was also a code enforcement officer.

soldout

facebook page

Riverman you are usually right so I double checked. Very interesting story and we can see how it plays out. Always enjoy your comments.

Sweet son

@Magistrate Court

No offense meant. Basically for Riverman referring to the amount of the suit! Big payout to me is not $15,000.

georgiaboy38

vowell

mr. vowell has been in several incidents of which valuables has come up missing.there are so many more than the public can imagine

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