2015
03.19

Latest on the Pledger Parkway child abuse case.

Pledger Parkway Abuse Home

Police indicate the 9-year-old boy at the center of abuse charges was treated worse than other children in the home; seems he was abused because he wasn’t part of the family, only staying with the people now arrested for mistreating him.

Gilbert employees began reporting abuse to DFCS in November but the child wasn’t removed until January. Action took 13 calls to DFCS from the school plus a call to LPD.

Neighbors told Channel 3 they didn’t call DFCS because they saw caseworkers visit the home and thought the agency was already handling the situation. So something WAS seemingly done, since neighbors saw DFCS caseworkers coming around. But whatever was done wasn’t sufficient.   Tiny Facebook

Another sad story about a child – this one not related to abuse:

    WQCH Radio, 03/17/15: “SEVERAL AGENCIES ARE CONDUCTING AN INVESTIGATION INTO AN INFANT DEATH, REPORTED IN LAFAYETTE ON MONDAY AFTERNOON.
    “POLICE SAY A BABY SITTER CALLED FROM HER RESIDENCE ON EAST AVENUE IN CIRCLE DRIVE, TO REPORT THAT SHE DISCOVERED THE 2 MONTH OLD WAS NOT BREATHING. EMS TRIED TO RESUSCITATE THE CHILD ALL THE WAY TO HUTCHESON MEDICAL CENTER, WITHOUT SUCCESS.

(Initial reports describe the home as a babysitter’s house, but a later post from Channel 3 says the East Ave. house operates as a daycare center.)

State law requires GBI involvement any time a child dies for unclear reasons. Investigators wait on autopsy results to make a final conclusion, but say everything so far indicates the child died of natural causes.

Sympathy and prayer extended to all involved.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

CatWalkChatt has a poll asking which form of county government people prefer.

WCM Sole Commissioner Poll Results

As this is written, the survey shows overwhelming support for a change to multi-commmissioner government. The vote isn’t official or binding in any way, but does indicate the issue was hardly “settled” by Saturday’s Republican Convention decision not to let voters have a say on their form of government.

Overwhelming demand for change is exactly why the Powers that Be WON’T allow a vote on this controversial topic, because they know how the vote would end up.   Tiny Facebook

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2015
03.18

Updated 3/18/15 @ 11:03 PM

A Walker County Sheriff’s Office sergeant found himself in jail and out of a job Tuesday after a weekend incident of domestic violence.

Walker County Sheriffs Patrol Car

The GBI launched an investigation of Detective Sergeant Dewayne Llewellyn after he was involved in a domestic dispute. A call about the incident came in to Walker 911 late Sunday and the GBI was called in Monday as part of standard procedure when an officer is accused of a crime.

It’s unclear who exactly called GBI in, but under state law the investigative agency can only be contacted by elected leaders of law enforcement agencies, cities, and counties – so it was very likely Sheriff Wilson himself who requested the investigation.

Dewayne LlewellynThe GBI didn’t mess around; Tuesday Detective Llewellyn was arrested and subsequently fired from the Sheriff’s Office.

(Detective Llewellyn’s ethics have come into question at least once before; back in 1999 while serving as a deputy for Catoosa County, Llewellyn allowed a Walker County Sheriff’s captain to drive home drunk after being pulled over for driving 85 in a 55 on highway 27. That officer was fired, but Dewayne Llewellyn ended up with a job in Walker County and moved through the ranks to become a detective – hopefully in spite of his “professional courtesy” for the drunk captain, and not because of it.)

Walker County’s Sheriff Office and Sheriff Wilson have a terrible history of not investigating officers in abusive relationships. A deputy sleeping with a minor several years ago was allowed to resign and not prosecuted; in 2010 a recently-retired (now deceased) department leader threatened to shoot family members and caused an entire neighborhood to be evacuated, but faced no criminal charges.

And of course there’s the notorious case of Theresa Parker, the 911 dispatcher who talked to Sheriff Wilson directly about her abusive police officer husband Sam, then ended up dead when Wilson took no action. (One of LU’s sources on this matter stated they reached out to the blog specifically hoping to prevent another Sam Parker type incident.)

Sheriffs OfficeHopefully this investigation and termination indicate a new attitude towards domestic violence and officer-involved crime within the Sheriff’s Office – but it’s only one of several examples in recent weeks.

The GBI has also investigated an unrelated incident that happened around the same time; a Walker County Deputy was accused of making violent threats against his now-ex wife. That investigation was ruled inconclusive since it was a matter of his word vs. her word. That officer was not charged and remains on the force. For now.

This developing report is based off information from four sources with close ties to local law enforcement. When more details of this incident are made available the article will be updated.

UPDATE:

The Sheriff’s Office issued a press release Wednesday afternoon verifying Llewellyn’s arrest and termination.

Per that statement, now-ex-Detective Llewellyn struck his wife with his hand. She “sustained discoloration and swelling to the area of the cheek and eye.” He was charged Tuesday with misdemeanor battery, released on $1,000 bond, and subsequently fired.

Independent sources tell LU that officer Llewellyn was immediately notified of his spouse’s 911 call by a girlfriend working at the county dispatch center – potentially putting the woman in more danger. That highlights again the need for a firm fraternization policy covering employees of the Sheriff’s Office, 911 center, city police, and county fire/rescue agencies.

This issue isn’t resolved until any woman, child, friend, or neighbor in the county aware of abuse can confidently report that abuse to law enforcement without fear of making it worse.

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2015
03.17

Republican Convention Delegates

Saturday’s Walker Republican Convention vote not to allow citizens a voice in their form of government was disappointing. But record turnout at the convention shows the issue is still highly controversial and many are interested in seeing it resolved for good.

(Almost as many people supported a vote on Sole Commissioner government this year during the convention as attended the 2013 convention all together.)

Republican Party leaders could still put the issue to rest by letting voters have a say next spring, but say they won’t because of the people there who opposed democracy. So 57 who showed up Saturday, many who work for the county, will trump the wishes of 2,045 people who signed the LU petition asking for a vote.

America!

    Chattanooga Times Free Press, 03/15/15: “..In an interview after the vote, [Commissioner Heiskell] defended the sole commissioner form of government, saying she is more invested in the job than representatives in multi-commissioner governments. She said Walker County’s form of government is also more efficient.
    “Even so, she said, she didn’t care how the delegates voted on the issue and believes the form of government is only in question because of next year’s election.
    “‘It’s beating-Bebe time,’ Heiskell said. ‘People are getting ready to qualify to run. If I were decrepit, I wouldn’t run. But I’m not. My mind works, and so do my legs.'”

She’s definitely more “invested” than a commission would be. She makes $105,000 a year and change, plus whatever she gets on the side, plus all her friends and family members who have county jobs. She’s invested, and cashing in before the crash takes us all down. Like the CEO of Enron.

Meanwhile, convention chairman Doug Grammer says it doesn’t matter if county employees were at the convention, paid to attend and reimbursed for their registration fees, because nobody knows how they really voted.

Republican Convention / Paying for Votes / Grammer

The whole thing is a disgrace, and the outcome of that vote should have no bearing on whether or not the citizens of the county get to vote on the issue of sole commissioner.   Tiny Facebook

Friday LU shared this link about LHS 10th grader Pamela Pacheco being accepted into a science program at Harvard. Pacheco needed $1,500 in order to take advantage of the rare educational opportunity, and asked the community to help.

Pamela Pacheco

Twelve people responded and contributed $450 through LU’s PayPal account. Today that cash, plus an extra $50 left from Underground t-shirt profits, will be sent to Pacheco. Hopefully the other $1,000 she needs has been given directly to the family, or will be soon.   Tiny Facebook

Awful child abuse case on Pledger Parkway, which took seven weeks to investigate and didn’t get police attention until school called DFCS a total of THIRTEEN times.

    WQCH Radio, 03/16/15: “CAPTAIN STACEY MEEKS SAID THE DEPARTMENT WAS ALERTED BY GILBERT ELEMENTARY THAT A 9 YEAR OLD STUDENT WAS SHOWING SIGNS OF PHYSICAL ABUSE. WHEN THEY FOLLOWED-UP AT THE HOME ON PLEDGER PARKWAY ON JANUARY 26th, POLICE FOUND 3 ADULTS AND 9 CHILDREN LIVING IN THE SMALL HOUSE. THEY TOOK EMERGENCY CUSTODY OF 5 CHILDREN THAT DAY, INCLUDING THE STUDENT THE SCHOOL REPORTED.
    Richard Voivedich“THE GBI WAS CALLED TO ASSIST IN THE 7-WEEK LONG INVESTIGATION – AND THEIR FINDINGS, ALONG WITH INTERVIEWS OF THE CHILDREN AT THE CHILD ADVOCACY CENTER, LED TO THE ARRESTS.
    “58 YEAR OLD SHIRLEY JEAN CHANDLER WAS CHARGED WITH 4 COUNTS OF FIRST DEGREE CRUELTY TO CHILDREN. HER SON, 31 YEAR OLD RICHARD ANTHONY VOIVEDICH [in picture] WAS ARRESTED ON 2 COUNTS OF FIRST DEGREE CRUELTY. POLICE SAY ALL COUNTS WERE TIED TO THE ALLEGED ABUSE OF THE 9 YEAR OLD BOY. HE AND 3 OF HIS SIBLINGS HAD REPORTEDLY BEEN ‘TAKEN-IN’ TO THE HOUSEHOLD AND WERE NOT RELATED TO THE FAMILY.
    “CHANDLER’S DAUGHTER WAS THE THIRD ADULT LIVING THERE, BUT CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES ORDERED SHE AND HER 2 CHILDREN TO LEAVE THE RESIDENCE. SHE WAS NOT CHARGED IN THE CASE. THE REMAINING 2 CHILDREN, WHO POLICE SAY BELONG TO VOIVEDICH, WERE TAKEN BY DFACS WHEN THE ARRESTS WERE MADE LAST FRIDAY.
    “CAPTAIN MEEKS SAID THE SCHOOL MADE A TOTAL OF 13 REFERRALS TO DFACS, BEFORE POLICE WERE NOTIFIED AND TOOK THE 5 CHILDREN OUT OF THE HOME. THE CHILD REPORTED BY HIS SCHOOL HAS NOW BEEN PLACED IN FOSTER CARE AND IS DOING WELL.”

DFCS did nothing until the school finally called local police. Neighbors stood by and watched the abuse, doing nothing until arrests were made. And the actual parents of three children in this situation are still nowhere to be found.

Absolutely appalling.   Tiny Facebook

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2015
03.15

More details of Tuesday’s emergency financing meeting for Walker County have been released. News reports and public reactions to the county’s latest $4.5 million loan have been almost universally negative – as well they should be.

Walker Co Loan Headline / Bebe Takes Out Another Loan

Heiskell opened a $10 million line of credit but (so far) has only tapped $4.2 million to pay off Hutcheson debt held by Regions Bank and $300,000 to pay back Erlanger for a two-year-old loan to cover Hutcheson’s payroll. (Both of those debts were overdue, scheduled to be repaid last December.)

That $4.5 million represents over 1/4 of the county’s total tax revenues last year. If the loan isn’t paid off this year (which it isn’t likely to be without another loan), the interest rate goes from 4.5% to 6.5% – all because the county’s credit rating is so terrible.

During the meeting, Commissioner Heiskell said she “might sell something?” to repay the county’s $4.5 million loan. Later in the week, when asked about repayment options, Heiskell jokingly told reporters she’s going to win the lottery. But she’s got no plan otherwise, so the joke’s on YOU.

Steve Tarvin at Crystal Springs

Heiskell had originally planned to bury the debt inside a new Public Facilities Authority, which she was having Rep. Steve Tarvin set up for her in Atlanta. That plan disintegrated when the Authority proposal surfaced on LU and Tarvin heard from his constituents opposed to the idea of creating yet another unaccountable, unelected body that can create debt for the county without voter approval.

Tarvin now tells reporters he will NOT pass the Public Facilities bill, instead preferring to put debt issues before the voters so we can consider them “with our eyes wide open.”

    Chattanooga Times Free Press, 03/13/15: “Tarvin liked the idea [of a Public Facilities Authority]. And he went out of his way five times during an interview Thursday to say he trusted Heiskell. But he didn’t trust the idea of an authority.
    “Under Georgia law, local governments can issue bonds if voters approve them by referendum. The authority would have been a way to get around that law.
    “After paying off this current debt, Tarvin wondered, what’s next? The authority would consist of appointed, not elected, board members. Would they issue more bonds, unnecessary bonds? Would the county crawl into a deeper hole?
    “‘I made a pledge with myself that I would not do anything to put our citizens in more debt,’ Tarvin said.”

So he trusts Bebe, but not this Authority, which would be made up of people appointed by Bebe. Maybe he doesn’t trust her quite that much afterall. He’s got sense enough to see it, he ought to admit it – she’s a lying, manipulative crook.

Thank you, Rep. Tarvin, for listening to your constituents and not giving Bebe’s inner circle more undeserved power to throw us off a cliff. (Now how about a vote on sole commissioner government?)

    WQCH Radio, 03/13/15: “HEISKELL SAID SHE THOUGHT THE PUBLIC FACILITIES AUTHORITY WOULD BE A GOOD SOLUTION TO THE DEBT PROBLEM. ‘IT WOULD HAVE ALLOWED US TO SPREAD PAYMENTS OVER TIME AND KEEP A BIG PAYMENT FROM HITTING TAXPAYERS SO HARD. BUT WE’LL LIQUIDATE SOME THINGS AND I’M CONFIDENT THAT WE CAN REPAY THIS DEBT WITHOUT A TAX INCREASE’, HEISKELL CONCLUDED.”

Liquidate a few things, sell a few old backhoes and pickup trucks at the road barn, maybe some desks out of storage. Maybe we’ll sell t-shirts like Lookout Mountain did when they wanted to raise money for sidewalks. Perhaps a couple car shows, or a bake sale.

She’s delusional.

Is Walker County doomed to become “The Detroit of the south” ?   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Saturday a small group of people who attended the Walker County Republican Convention decided for everyone else what should or should not be voted on during the next two years.

GOP Convention Vote Totals

Two motions for county government were proposed during the bi-annual political gathering.

A proposal to put the issue of “sole commissioner” on a Republican-only ballot next year was rejected, 53-57. If five more people had shown up to serve as delegates, we’d have a vote. 110 folks decided the future for you, which is complete crap. (That means it’s back to petitioning Mullis, Tarvin, and Deffenbaugh for a direct vote.)

The other proposal was asking the elected commissioner to post financial reports and a line-item budget in the newspaper on a regular basis, which she’s already required to do by the county charter and hasn’t done in 14 years. That one passed 66-43. Which means 43 people don’t even think the commissioner should follow the county’s own rules. (Most of those people are on the county payroll and may have been compensated for their participation in the convention, same as last year.)

Matt Williamson was elected chairman of the party, defeating Doug Grammer who was a jerk to several delegates known to oppose the status quo. John Carpenter was elected First Vice Chair, Cathie Kelley elected Second Vice Chair, Nancy Burton elected Secretary, and Jim Powell was chosen as Treasurer.

A victory for the status quo – the only consistent value of party politics.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

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2015
03.11

Monday Commissioner Heiskell announced an emergency commissioner meeting, to be held Tuesday afternoon at 2 PM. The short-notice meeting’s purpose was for “signing documents relating to temporary county financing.”

Bebe Buck Stops Here

During the meeting, Commissioner Heiskell signed paperwork for a $10 MILLION line of credit from an outfit called Rosemawr Municipal Partners. She immediately took out $4.5 million in a loan off the credit line, saying it was to cover the county’s Hutcheson debt held by Regions bank and a $300,000 loan from Erlanger used to cover a Hutcheson payroll shortage. (Leaving about $10-12 million in Erlanger debt pending courtroom actions.)

This is the third or fourth bank loan Heiskell has taken out to run the county with in the lat five years, each one larger than the last. (The loan is backed by, and will be repaid with, next year’s county tax revenue – meaning Walker County will start the next fiscal year already way behind.) The Rosemawr loan interest rate is 1.5% higher than the county’s last loan, which translates to an extra $150k a year of interest payments because of how badly Bebe’s already ruined the county’s credit.

This is the government equivalent of opening a fifth credit card to pay off the other credit cards that have balance due, at a higher interest rate. Even a child can see it’s a bad idea, but here we go over the cliff – with our expensive farm, stupid walking trail, and pretty new bank building in tow.

The only way out of this now, if it can even be escaped, is to sell every county asset it isn’t required to have by law – the farm, all the extra office space, the buildings rented to state agencies for pennies a year – lay off every county employee who isn’t legally necessary (basically everybody but a handful of deputies and the elected officials) and raise taxes 400%.

And even that might not be enough at this point.

Thanks, Bebe! You could at least use a couple thousand of that to buy KY Jelly for all of us so the raping we’re going to get next fall doesn’t hurt as bad.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Phillips Bros Machine

More bad news for the county: Phillips Bros Machine filed for bankruptcy on Monday, potentially ending almost 100 manufacturing jobs and possibly leaving the county with several million in debt related to the company’s purchase of the old BlueBird site.

Commissioner Heiskell says this is a good thing because whoever buys the place under bankruptcy will hire more people? Or something. Details for a planned sale under bankruptcy are being kept secret, at least so far.

[LU was tipped that things were going wrong at Phillips Bros a MONTH ago. Michael Phillips denied any problems and said LU would be the “first to know” if anything reportable was happening. He lied; news reports of the bankruptcy match every detail shared with LU in early February.]

Walker County could end up owing $3.5 million on the Phillips Bros facility, as bankruptcy could allow the company to escape that deal before merging with another entity and possibly then leaving town. This is why Development deals are often bad deals – especially the way we set them up at the Walker County Development Authority.   Tiny Facebook

Want a little MORE bad news?

Rock Creek Environmental Damage November 14 2014

Walker County’s misguided trail project on Lookout Mountain is headline news, again, as the state vows to fine the county at least $100,000 for environmental damage that should have been corrected months ago.

On top of the fine, the county has spent nearly a half-million dollars to build the walking trail, and that’s just the expenses that can be accounted for.

Once the fines are paid, out of citizens’ pockets, the Commissioner and her friends will still have what they wanted: a glorified driveway for a millionaire’s personal playground, built on a long-closed railroad bed.

Rock Creek / Durham Trail Construction April 2012

Channel 3’s article is going to get the most attention, but a piece from the Times Free Press gives a lot more detail:

Half a million dollars blown for a family Bebe gets a couple thousand dollars in campaign donations from, plus endorsements. She’s sold us all down the river for the political equivalent of magic beans. Is ANYBODY still confused why the county has so much debt?

    “Heiskell did not return a call seeking comment, and County Attorney Don Oliver said officials were not allowed to comment on the trail until the issues with the EPD were ‘wrapped up,’ even though Heiskell denied any potential fines to multiple media outlets in December.”

Funny how these legal issues keep them from speaking to the media when things are bad, but Bebe and her people have diarrhea of the mouth when they have good news to share.

    “Bobby Davenport, a trustee with the Lula Lake Land Trust, which built the Cloudland Connector Trail, said Walker County is actually paying for mistakes made by railroad builders more than 100 years ago. The Durham Trail follows the tracks of a railroad built at the turn of the century.
    “Davenport said this work damaged the creek, and the EPD blamed Walker County. ‘They’ve been given a lot of grief for fixing something that they didn’t break,’ he said. ‘Somebody’s got to do it and make the world a better place.'”

Mr. Durham is the reason this project was done in the first place, and he’s blaming the original railroad, which went out of business in the 1950’s, for how they built the thing originally? Except the environment had recovered from all that, until the county came in with bulldozers and screwed it all back up. Polluting a stream and killing fish is making the world a better place, as long as the Davenports can benefit from it.

Next will he blame God for putting the creek in the way of his walking trail project?   Tiny Facebook

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