2015
03.31

Quick turnaround investigation into last week’s car break in.

    WQCH Radio, 03/28/15: “A CRIME TIP HELPED LAFAYETTE POLICE RECOVERY A 40 CALIBER GLOCK PISTOL, STOLEN LAST WEEK FROM AN UNLOCKED CAR ON MORGAN STREET.
    “POLICE CAPTAIN STACEY MEEKS SAID THE GUN OWNER GOT A TIP ABOUT TWO YOUNG MEN WHO MIGHT HAVE HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE CRIME. POLICE TRACKED THE TWO TO AN APARTMENT AT WOODLANDS VILLAGE IN LAFAYETTE WHERE ONE OF THE MEN WAS CARING FOR AN ELDERLY RESIDENT.

Jamelle Brown and Cliff Dixon

    “23 YEAR OLD LAMONICA JAMELLE BROWN AND 22 YEAR OLD CLIFFORD WALLACE DIXON OF LAFAYETTE, WERE EACH CHARGED WITH A FELONY COUNT OF ENTERING AN AUTO. WHEN POLICE MADE A CONSENT SEARCH OF THE WOODLANDS APARTMENT, THEY FOUND THE STOLEN GLOCK HANDGUN UNDER A MATTRESS IN BROWN’S BEDROOM.
    “AN ATTEMPT WAS MADE TO CHANGE THE SERIAL NUMBER ON THE GUN, SO THE LOCAL POLICE DEPARTMENT HAS CONTACTED A.T.F. TO SEE IF THE GUN CAN BE RETURNED TO ITS OWNER. IF NOT, IT WILL HAVE TO BE DESTROYED. IT WAS VALUED AT $450.   Tiny Facebook

Walker County’s sole commissioner problem, and the petition asking for a vote about it, are a matter of being heard.

Door to Door Petition Gathering / Edited

Will our elected legislators listen to the voice of the many, or the desires of a mighty few who wish to preserve a broken system?   Tiny Facebook

Joshua WilsonCatoosa deputy Joshua Wilson was arrested in Chattooga County last week for stealing prescription drugs.

Wilson was suspended, plus booked into jail on charges of drug possession, drug distribution, and violation of oath.

Seems like another officer is found doing something wrong every week lately. Protect and serve, indeed.   Tiny Facebook

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2015
03.30

Legislators are elected to the General Assembly to represent the voters in a district. To do that properly, they must communicate with their constituents and choose between conflicting wants or needs of various people.

Walker County’s three elected legislators have recently found themselves in a position of choosing between the voice of many or the demands of a mighty few – on the topic of voting for Sole Commissioner government.

Petition Sample Section

The county’s system of governance, headed by a single elected ruler, is a relic of the past. Sole commissioner leadership may have been appropriate for this area in the 1940’s, but today seems as modern and useful as outhouses and buggy whips. Arguments in support of having a sole leader don’t hold up in light of recent events in the county, and many feel Walker is being left behind because of its antiquated government.

Interest in the topic of sole commissioner surged after last fall’s 69% property tax increase, fueled by existing frustration with the county’s current sole commissioner, Bebe Heiskell. But taxes and the current unpopular commissioner are hardly the only reasons Walker County should be allowed to vote on this issue.

    “This is an outdated system that I can not believe is still in effect in this day and age. .. Why would you not want someone looking over the other person’s shoulder to ensure proper handling of the tax payer’s money?? I don’t care who that person is – I would want a co-commissioner.” -Edward Schub, Rising Fawn

Sole-commissioner government at any level invites abuse, because it places ultimate control and decision-making in the hands of one person, without the checks and balances necessary for representative government. (That’s why it’s only used in nine of the nation’s 3,144 counties, and banned in 49 other states) It also undercuts government transparency laws, keeps many in the county from having a voice, and gives incumbent commissioners an almost insurmountable advantage in elections.

Even if the sole commissioner is honest, trustworthy, open, and responsive – the perfect non-political politician – running a county the size of Walker, with its large budget and a population over 60,000, is more job than one person can or should be asked to take on – no matter who that person is.

John Deffenbaugh & Steve Tarvin

The county’s charter can be changed to bring in a board of commissioners but the only means of doing that is through legislation, a bill passed through the General Assembly by the county’s delegation. That delegation consists of three elected legislators: Senator Jeff Mullis, Representative Steve Tarvin, and Representative John Deffenbaugh.

None of the three, and none of their recent predecessors (Jay Neal, Martin Scott) have shown any interest in tackling the important sole commissioner issue, and when asked about it (on more than one occasion) have told constituents that there’s no public interest in changing the system – despite the obvious demand and need for it.

To change that mindset, The Underground and a handful of passionate people in Walker County launched a petition last fall asking the legislators to pass a resolution giving citizens a direct vote on keeping or dropping sole commissioner government.

Door to Door Petition Gathering / Edited

The petition was created online on September 11 of last year, and within a few days had been signed by over 1,000 people. Volunteers going door to door in LaFayette, Rossville, and elsewhere in the county collected hundreds more signatures on paper.

After two months the petition was closed, and the process of consolidating offline and online signatures began. After some delays an edited petition stripped of duplicate names, out-of-county signers, and illegible signatures was prepared – bringing the total to 2,045 valid names spread across a 75-page document.

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2015
03.27

A Roper employee died Tuesday afternoon while mowing grass at the factory on a tractor. He was found passed out on the machine and pronounced dead at Hutcheson.

Roper Corp

Per official reports, the man – later identified as David Cabe – wasn’t obviously injured; emergency responders believe he suffered a heart attack.   Tiny Facebook

If you’re gonna be a thief, go big. Three credit cards, a luxury car… Beats having to tell the other prisoners you’re in jail for shoplifting from Dollar Tree.

    WQCH Radio, 03/25/15: “A FRAUDULENT CREDIT CARD PURCHASE WAS HALTED AND A STOLEN CAR RECOVERED AT THE LAFAYETTE WALMART LAST FRIDAY; POLICE WERE NOTIFIED THAT THE VEHICLE WAS LOCATED THERE THROUGH A ‘PINGED’ CELL PHONE INSIDE.
    Kevin Paul Venier“35 YEAR OLD KEVIN PAUL VENIER, WHO LIVES ON ‘HOOTIE HOO HOLLER’ OFF 136 WEST OF LAFAYETTE, WAS ARRESTED ON MULTIPLE CHARGES.
    “INSIDE THE STORE, VENIER TRIED TO MAKE PURCHASES WITH TWO STOLEN DEBIT CARDS, WHICH WERE DENIED. WITH A THIRD CARD, HE PURCHASED TWO CELL PHONES AND AN AIRSOFT PISTOL, ACCORDING TO THE POLICE REPORT. HE AND HIS FEMALE COMPANION WERE STOPPED UPON LEAVING THE STORE. A STOLEN LEXAS [sic] HE HAD BEEN DRIVING, REPORTED MISSING FROM CHATTANOOGA, WAS RECOVERED IN THE PARKING LOT.
    “VENIER WAS CHARGED WITH THEFT BY BRINGING STOLEN PROPERTY INTO THE STATE, FINANCIAL CARD FRAUD, CRIMINAL ATTEMPT TO COMMIT A FELONY AND GIVING A FALSE NAME.”

This isn’t Mr. Venier’s first – or second – arrest. The pic came from one of his prior bookings in Chattanooga.   Tiny Facebook

Roger Forgey

Catoosa County has hired former Hutcheson CEO Roger Forgey as a consultant. Forgey will help Catoosa leaders understand the hospital’s ongoing financial situation, and help them decide if they should push for chapter 7 bankruptcy – a liquidation of the hospital’s assets.

Forgey is the good CEO Erlanger provided to Hutcheson who was starting to turn the place around when the hospital board ended their management deal and kicked him to the curb – not to be confused with his corrupt predecessor Charles Stewart, or idiot replacement Farrell Hayes.

Walker County doesn’t need any educated or experienced consultants. We’re still shakin’ that Magic-8-Ball Bebe got at Bill’s in downtown Chickamauga twenty years ago.   Tiny Facebook

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2015
03.23

Charles Nathan BurgessPolice say Friday’s chase from LaFayette to Tunnel Hill cut through Woodstation, Rocky Face, and neared Varnell, often reaching speeds of 90 MPH or more.

Charles Nathan Burgess, who fled after stealing a truck, remains in the Whitfield jail facing 11 charges, including several for the chase and for drugs. (He was allegedly messed up on Meth during the chase.) He will be charged with more crimes once he’s back in Walker.

Linked report says he went from highways 151 to 201, which means he had to cut through Nickajack over Taylor’s Ridge. That’s about the worst road you could possibly choose for a high speed chase.   Tiny Facebook

Wrecked LPD SRO Patrol Car / Skipper Dunn

The city wasted no time in replacing Skipper Dunn’s wrecked patrol car. Insurance will cover some of this, presumably?

    WQCH Radio, 03/21/15: “IN A CALLED MEETING TUESDAY NIGHT, THE LAFAYETTE CITY COUNCIL AGREED TO REPLACE A POLICE CRUISER, WHICH WAS TOTALED IN A WRECK LAST WEEK. THE PURCHASE OF A 2014 DODGE CHARGER WITH POLICE PACKAGE WAS APPROVED AT THE STATE BID PRICE OF $23,136.”

Judging by the outgoing vehicle’s age, it probably has 700,000 miles on it and was going to need replacement soon anyway. Fortunately the city has money in reserve now and isn’t forced to take out high-interest loans or sell bonds to cover emergency equipment purchases.

    “THE COUNCIL ALSO FORMED A COMMITTEE TO UPDATE THE CITY’S SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY. AS CURRENTLY WRITTEN, IT PREVENTS MOST EMPLOYEES FROM CONTRIBUTING CITY NEWS ON THE INTERNET.
    “CITY MANAGER DAVID HAMILTON SAID HE, THE CITY I.T. SPECIALIST – SCOTT UNDERWOOD, THE CITY ATTORNEY AND SOME DEPARTMENT HEADS WILL GATHER TO FORM A NEW SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY FOR COUNCIL APPROVAL.
    “THE CITY PLANS INITIALLY TO CREATE A NEW FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE CITY RECREATION DEPARTMENT, IN ORDER TO COMMUNICATE WEATHER DELAYS AND SCHEDULED TIMES OF GAMES AND EVENTS.”

Would it be more beneficial to have a separate page for the rec. department (LPD, Downtown Development, Chattooga Academy, and the city’s general government already have their own FB pages) or to just give someone in the rec. department permission to post on the city’s existing main Facebook?

At least these things are being considered. We’ve finally moved the city council out of 1995.   Tiny Facebook

State Rep. Tom Weldon of Ringgold tells authorities missing evidence in his brother Wesley’s February drug arrest must have been stolen by “burglars.”

Rep. Tom Weldon / Times Free Press

Catoosa law enforcement officers have no reports or records of any burglary at the home involved; will they buy the story or will the legislator’s family be treated like anyone else would be in the same situation?

Like LU said last week, there’s nothing fishy AT ALL with this situation.   Tiny Facebook

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2015
03.21

A high speed chase began in LaFayette a little before lunchtime Friday, and ended up with a wrecked truck two counties away.

Per reports, 31-year-old Charles Burgess stole a pickup truck, then fled from deputies in it – a chase stretching over 20 miles. He was finally forced off the road near Tunnel Hill by a GSP cruiser and was booked in the Whitfield County jail.

More details on this one will surely emerge over the weekend.   Tiny Facebook

Walker County School’s restrictions on allowing people to speak during school board meetings has resulted in a lawsuit.

Walker County Schools HQ

Saddle Ridge social studies teacher Jim Barrett is suing the school system for violating his free speech rights by allegedly barring him from commenting on a new grading system during a school board meeting.

It’s not clear how much merit Barrett’s suit has, but there’s definitely some problems with the school board and its meetings. You can’t go easily speak, they don’t put out an agenda or minutes online, nothing is recorded, and the school superintendent more or less controls everything with minimal input from the elected board.

Maybe this case will lead to reforms. Maybe.   Tiny Facebook

Larry Brooks at Phillips Bros Machine

Friday Phillips Brothers Machine laid off 31 employees, roughly a third of the company’s workforce. The labor cut is part of the business’ bankruptcy filing.

But no worries. Bebe said “It’s not a problem for us.”   Tiny Facebook

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