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Code Compliance officer fired after investigation

Posted: July 9, 2012 - 5:23pm  |  Updated: July 9, 2012 - 6:32pm

Twitter @ValerieRowell

 

A Columbia County Code Compliance officer accused of entering a Martinez home without permission was fired Monday.

The Columbia County sheriff’s investigators completed an investigation Friday into a July 2 incident where Erica Masters claimed Code Compliance Officer Jimmy Vowell came into her home uninvited.

The investigation didn’t result in criminal charges against Vowell as 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 Erica Masters’ home, where he was serving her with 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 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 July 10 morning. Masters also provided footage of the incident from surveillance video cameras inside and outside of her home.

Vowell had been on administrative leave during the investigation.

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

Masters has said she plans to seek civil action against and move out of the county as a result of the incident.

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Comments (24)

IknowEverything

His supervisors/managers

His supervisors/managers should receive a letter of reprimand since his training was inefficient.

Goaliemom1987

How do you know his training

How do you know his training was inefficient? It's common sense NOT to enter a home without permission even if the door supposedly swung open.

Riverman1

NBC Interested?

The Today Show has heard about it and contacted her.

ripjones256

When the door swings open, you call the Sheriff

This is common sense. Still find it strange that there were all those cameras set up in the house. Just sayin'...

IknowEverything

GoalieMom1987

Because I know everything.

Riverman1

NBC Today Arrives in Evans Tomorrow

The Today Show people will be arriving in Evans tomorrow along with her lawyer from Atlanta. She will be featured on the show Wednesday morning.

Concerned Friend

Glad to see the county stand up!

He should have been terminated when the lady called 911 and he was in her house without her consent. I am glad to see the county stand up and do what is right! First of all he is lucky he didn't get shot! It was about time Karma caught up with Jimmy Vowell. Hopefully after his track record in Richmond County and now Columbia County, he won't hold anymore government jobs!!!

Big Dawg

WAG

Jimmy Vowell

Glad to see someone finally gets it! He should have never been working for the county...goes to show the county scrapes the bottom of the barrell.
He has been a loser for years and will never change.
The fact that 911 did not send the police is appalling. If I woke up an saw Vowell standing in my room you would not have to call the cops!
and why do you find it strange that the woman had cameras. it is her house she can have what she wants....And she can leave her door unlocked or lock it.. Does any of that give that creep the right to go in???? He always thought the law did not apply to him... Or the laws of life...He has a real hate for women....And any authority.....Now lets see what county will hire him....I hope she sues and wins a mint. If i were an attorney i would take the case for free...and no I am not a disgruntled gf...Just see it as it is!

Riverman1

Character

I can assure you this young woman is a capable and reliable witness after getting to know her. Her house is well kept although the grass may have been a little high. The lawn mower is in the front yard broken where she was last cutting the grass. She was still trying to fix it. Watch the Today Show interview with her tomorrow and form your own opinion about her.

I've also been given lots of info about Vowell via various sources including a RCSO police officer. This guy is the ultimate example of a loser in so many ways it's unreal. I encourage all to ask around about him. I have no doubt he entered that house with ulterior motives.

soapy_725

Lets hope justice is served

We need some relief from injustice. How can we be expected to respect "authorities" who do police their own? To whom much ( power ), is given, much is expected.

Little Lamb

Code Enforcement

The Columbia County Code of Ordinances is available on line at the county's web site. Here is what I found about lawns:
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Section 34-31 – Definitions.

Weeds means all rank vegetative growth including, but not limited to kudzu, poison ivy, jimsonweed, burdock, ragweed, thistle, cocklebur, dandelion, plants of obnoxious odors, or other similar unsightly vegetative growth; however this term shall not include cultivated flowers, fruits and vegetables and gardens.

Section 34-32 – Declaration.

The following are specifically declared to be nuisances:

(7) Weeds and other unkept or uncultivated vegetation in excess of 12 inches in height; provided, however, that this provision shall not apply to such a condition if it exists on:

a. A lot or tract of land greater than one acre in size; or

b. Land located in a R-A residential agricultural zoning district.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Do you reckon that Mr. Vowell was trying to get her to sign a citation claiming she violated the above ordinance? Come on, was her lawn really above 12 inches? Usually what happens in this hot weather is that the turfgrass you are cultivating shuts down in the heat and drought, but a few weeds poke up. Sometimes, those bahaiagrass seed stalks might be a little over 12 inches, but let's give our neighbors a break, folks, when the weather is this hot and dry.

RogueKnight

Civil action?

Atlanta lawyer? What for? I guess she's hoping to gain a pile of money out of this.

georgiaboy38

tv and newspaper

mr vowell and this case has made today's ny daily news and glen becks paper the blaze-check out www.theblaze.com for more comments

soapy_725

How about CC liability?

If she wins a lawsuit that includes CC negligence, we will be faced with a "grass tax" to cover the lawsuit claims. He was in the employ of CC. He was acting on behalf of his employer. Fruit of the poisoned vine. Two individuals equal conspiracy. CC initial response or lack of same may be negligence. Negligence and loss (that of freedom and security of person and property), could equal a settlement. If, she gets a change of venue.

Staffwriter-12

DISTRICT ATTORNEY

Do we still have a District Attorney in this circuit of Georgia ?
Funny we haven't heard a peep from that office !
Ms Wright,where are you when we need you ? I know you better than this-the reason I supported you !
Thanks**************

soapy_725

Obviously Mr Vowell never ventured down Washington Rd

west of Wally World. Some yards are jungles. One new construction site has silt screens next to a ditch that feeds a storm drain and a nearby branch. New construction sites on either side have no silt screen. And speaking of codes? What happened to the "retention pond" mandates for businesses with runoff? Why?

soapy_725

How about simple justice as a reason to speak out?

Or her civil rights were violated? Maybe she does not want money? Although the wallet has a lot of nerves and gets attention when all else fails. Maybe personal satisfaction that she has rights even in CC. A sad day when you have to call the TV station to get justice denied by public servants.

soapy_725

Maybe sweeping under rug has found a champion?

More power to her. If she runs for office, she will get my vote and maybe a lawn mower repair. We could start a legal fund at an area bank?

soapy_725

Is the ARC probate clerk related?

Not many Vowell's on white pages? Let's see, there is A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y. Or for our Hispanic citizens I, A, EE, O, OOH. Sarcasm. And an preemptive apology to Ms. Vowell.

blues550

Got Himself A Tiger By The Tail

Oops! Looks like some money is going to be exchanging hands!

meriwether123

Yes, they are related

Yes, Soapy_725. They are related.

Devils__Advocate

An unbiased opinion

What single woman, who feels the need to set up surveillance cameras, sleeps with an unlocked door?

All four camera angles should be shown at once, without being focused down to one-screen, to really prove this case.
Was there any interaction off screen on her part while we all were restricted to just the one screen?

And if something HAD happened to her and she was laying there dead, someone would've found a reason to blame HIM for NOT investigating the bad odor, specially with his LE background, and for sure would've sited the number of notices left at her door. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

In retrospect, when one has a clear mind and time to process all of this, things could've been handled differently, such as him calling 911 to report a suspicious situation and waiting for an officer to arrive, and being truthful from the very beginning.

(And personally, why ruin a perfectly good laptop--at least erase the drives and sell/donate it!)

meriwether123

According to several other

According to several other news sources and comments, a roommate left it unlocked.

meriwether123

soapy_725

Maybe we should do that, but with Riverman's idea on the other thread. Maybe we could start something to help her out in general. If she is in fact jobless, and that's why all of this is happening, maybe we can help out with that? Even if she is suing the county, that is likely to take MONTHS to complete. What about in the meantime though? At the very least, maybe we could get enough in donations to help fix or replace the lawnmower?

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