Fannin County Governmental Departments recap 2018

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – At the most recent Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting, the public got to hear first hand the accomplishments of several departments within the Fannin County government.

Among the departments represented was the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, Land Development, Animal Control, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Recreation Department, and Public Works.

BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS ARTS ASSOCIATION (BRMAA)

BRMAA saw over 38,000 visitors in 2018. The economic benefits of having this many visitors to the area are estimated to be $493,000 locally and $1.1 million for the region.

“These numbers are based on Georgia Council for the Arts as well as Americans for the Arts Economic Operations,” BRMAA Executive Director Nichole Potzauf said explaining how economic impact is decided.

The Art Center hosted 37 exhibits and events in 2018 and was awarded the 2018-19 Vibrant Communities Grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Comissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Departments, Department Heads, Update, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, BRMAA, Land Development, Animal Control, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Director, Animal Control Officer, Chief Officer, Fire Chief, Deputy Director, Fannin County Attorney, Nichole Potzauf, Marie Woody, John Drullinger, Darrell Payne, Larry Thomas, Eddie O'Neal, Zack Ratcliff

Visitors to the Art Center for one of the many exhibits hosted throughout the year.

The Vibrant Communities Grants helps to support single art projects in Georgia. These projects could include an art exhibit, a theater production, a series of workshops for children, or an artist residency.

Potzauf said of the intentions for the grant’s use, “We’re utilizing that to begin a program call the Appalachian Initiative Grant Program and we are focusing on Appalachian craft and culture.” She listed some examples including weaving and bee keeping.

Along with the exhibits and events, the Art Center also hosted 4198 students that attended one of their 190 classes offered.

There was a notable success from the annual Cork and Canvas fundraiser as well.

“All the proceeds from this event benefit our youth programming. In 2018, based on just that fundraiser alone we were able to provide $2,000 in youth scholarships, some art classes as well as college advancement for any student that is advancing their career in the college arts,” Potzauf said of this event, and reminded everyone that the 2019 Cork and Canvas fundraiser is approaching and will be held on March 29.

Expect to see a one of a kind exhibit displayed between April and June of 2020 as it makes its way across the state of Georgia.

While no specific details were given Potzauf did say of the future exhibit, “We have been selected as one of six cities in the state of Georgia to represent the Smithsonian exhibit that will be coming here to celebrate rural communities throughout the United States.”

Currently the Art Center is displaying over 1,800 pieces of artwork and is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

FANNIN COUNTY LAND DEVELOPMENT

The Land Development department saw 270 building permits in 2018. This number is slightly down from 2017. Along with the building permits there were 16 Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plans, 5 new residential developments, 2 private commercial developments, 2 apartment applications, 2 church developments, 2 assisted living developments, 1 school development, and 1 tiny home/RV park development.

One of the largest issues facing the Land Development department is the ongoing matter of litter control.

“I get about one or two calls a week about garbage. Sometimes it’s easy and I find the name in it and sometimes I can run down those folks and sometimes I can’t,” Chief Land Development Officer Marie Woody addressed the complications in combating the littering problem in Fannin County.

According to Woody, while there are fines in place for Fannin County residents who dump trash on the side of roadways when it comes to residents from out of state, if found, little or nothing can be done.

Those that litter in Fannin County or dump garbage on the side of the roadways and are from Tennessee or North Carolina often get off with no consequences because Woody simply does not have the jurisdiction to fine them.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Comissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Departments, Department Heads, Update, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, BRMAA, Land Development, Animal Control, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Director, Animal Control Officer, Chief Officer, Fire Chief, Deputy Director, Fannin County Attorney, Nichole Potzauf, Marie Woody, John Drullinger, Darrell Payne, Larry Thomas, Eddie O'Neal, Zack Ratcliff

(L-R) Steve Oakley, Marie Woody, Jane Oakley. The three have worked closely to propose a Fannin county clean up program.

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson expressed his feelings that a majority of the trash he encounters along the roadways is bulk, and expressed holding the garbage haulers in the county more responsible.

“Is there something in our ordinance where someone has to identify themselves as a garbage hauler?” Johnson questioned Woody about possible solutions. “I know for four years it’s been a huge issue. It just seems like this last year, maybe two years, there’s just a lot more private haulers.”

After brief discussion the members of the Board of Commissioners and Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss, all agreed to review the county’s current ordinances and look into the possibility of having private haulers register.

Woody, along with Fannin County residents Steve and Jane Oakley presented the county with a vision to start an “Adopt the Mountains” program.

The program, still in its conceptual phase, will aim to curb littering through education, and will work to get citizens more involved in area clean-ups.

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton praised the Oakleys for their willingness to get involved: “I’m personally very grateful for citizens that step up and are willing to get their hands in the soup, so to speak. It’s a never ending battle and it takes a lot of people to make that effort to see some results.”

When questioned by the Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner Glenn Patterson about an education program for high school age children, Woody replied that she thought it would be better to focus the educational programs on younger children.

“I think we need to teach the children, not the teenagers,” Woody said responding to Patterson’s question. “When you get into the teenage years, you’re kind of set in what you’re going to do, but if we start ingraining it into the children maybe kindergarten, first, second grade; if we can educate them I think that would be your best bet. Then they could educate mom and dad.”

Woody said that the educational program could go hand in hand with the proposed Spring Clean Up outlined in the Oakley’s program.

Along with the new programs hoped to be initiated in the county, Woody will be seeking another Tire Grant clean up.

In 2018, a tire removal project was implemented through use of this grant and was met with great success. Woody is hoping to continue this momentum in the county.

Finally Woody would like to see Fannin County’s Adopt a Road program revamped. Advanced Disposal has agreed to pick up specific colored bags along the roadways where citizens have collected litter.

FANNIN COUNTY ANIMAL CONTROL

Fannin County Animal Control (FCAC), Animal Control Officer, John Drullinger updated the BOC with the work that his department had accomplished in 2018.

Last year, FCAC took in 405 dogs and puppies. Of the 405 that were taken in 118 were reclaimed by owners, 83 were adopted out of the facility, and 189 were pulled by various animal rescues.

Drullinger spoke of the improvements done to the FCAC facility in 2018: “Without a doubt one of the biggest ones was the completion of the 13 outside dog kennels. Which improved both the animals lives and ours as well.”

According to Drullinger this addition to the facility has made a vast improvement on the reduction of noise, and has added greatly to the safety of employees as they now can more easily get into kennels for disinfecting.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Comissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Departments, Department Heads, Update, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, BRMAA, Land Development, Animal Control, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Director, Animal Control Officer, Chief Officer, Fire Chief, Deputy Director, Fannin County Attorney, Nichole Potzauf, Marie Woody, John Drullinger, Darrell Payne, Larry Thomas, Eddie O'Neal, Zack Ratcliff

A volunteer working one-on-one with a dog at FCAC helps to improve the odds of adoption.

“Our new volunteer program has been a huge success. We’ve got some days up to 10 or 12 volunteers down there walking our dogs, helping clean, do laundry, work with some of the shy dogs, some of the fearful ones, teaching them tricks,” Drullinger said of the recently implemented program. “Some of our volunteers are doing legs of transports helping move some of the dogs out, helping rescues.”

Johnson spoke of the volunteers at FCAC improving the cause, “The other people that have been getting involved here recently, I hope they keep it up , keep the interest.”

“We have a great group of people. Some come pretty regular, some come on certain days, some come everyday. They are very motivated and willing to help out,” Drullinger affirmed Johnson’s thoughts and added that the FCAC donor program has been a huge success as well with people donating items such as blankets, towels, toys and treats for the dogs.

The local area animal rescues were acknowledged for their help in moving dogs out of the facility and into permanent homes. A new group, Team Dahlonega, has also stepped up, helping to advertise the dogs held at FCAC and raise pledges for individual dogs to be pulled into rescues.

Drullinger said of Team Dahlonega’s efforts, “That’s been instrumental in helping us with our rescues, that have already been helping us move out a lot more dogs.”

The efforts of the volunteers, rescues and staff are noticeable. As of this update there were only six dogs in the facility. Drullinger said of this accomplishment, “That’s lowest number that has ever been there since I’ve been there.”

Drullinger closed his update with a reminder: “I would like to remind the public about ID-ing their dogs. If we had more people have ID’s on the collars and / or micro-chipped we could get dogs back to the owners a lot quicker and sooner.”

FANNIN COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY AND FANNIN COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT

Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Deputy Director Darrell Payne and Fannin County Fire Department (FCFD) Fire Chief Larry Thomas updated the BOC and residents on the busy year the departments had.

“Last year we had a busy call season,” said Payne before giving the statistics of 911 calls in Fannin County.

The EMA / EMS received 3,641 911 calls in 2018. There were an additional 1,115 non emergency calls that the department handled.

According to Thomas the FCFD responded to 416 fire calls, nine structure fires, three commercial fires, and one chimney fire.

“Several years ago we had several chimney fires. We were looking at anywhere from 12 to 15 on a given year,” Thomas spoke on the importance of having chimneys inspected, a step that can easily help to prevent a home fire. “Now these numbers have gotten down and I’m hoping that it’s our education that we are spreading throughout the county as far as cleaning chimneys. Right now is the most dangerous time of the year.”

Thomas explained that most chimneys are now prefabricated. Fires in these chimneys can easily spread to structures such as attics and rooftops.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Comissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Departments, Department Heads, Update, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, BRMAA, Land Development, Animal Control, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Director, Animal Control Officer, Chief Officer, Fire Chief, Deputy Director, Fannin County Attorney, Nichole Potzauf, Marie Woody, John Drullinger, Darrell Payne, Larry Thomas, Eddie O'Neal, Zack Ratcliff

Fannin County rescuers working to bring an injured fisherman to safety.

EMA / EMS also received two new ambulances which were placed in the Dial section of Fannin County, and hope to obtain a new ambulance in 2019 to replace one currently located at Station 4 in McCaysville.

Both Thomas and Payne reported that emergency calls are on the rise in the county, and Thomas attributes many of these calls taking place from people exploring the outdoors in our area: “We’re having more and more trail calls.”

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson spoke of the importance of residents in Fannin County marking their homes and properties with signage that is easily visible to emergency crews: “A lot of people get black and black just blends in.”

Blue reflective number signs can be purchased at Kevin Panter Insurance. These signs, usually placed at the beginning of driveways, are clearly and highly visible which saves time for responders during an emergency situation.

A portion of the money received from the purchase of these signs goes directly back to the Fannin County EMS department.

“It does help. It really does. It reflects, it’s right at the end of the driveway,” Thomas said speaking of the blue signs available for purchase to the public.

“We have just recently moved into our new facility and we are very proud of it,” Payne spoke of the progress taking place at the new Fannin County Public Safety Complex, “and we want to thank the commissioners, you all for supporting us on that. It’s something we’ve needed for a long time. I think it’s something that the people, the county, can be proud of also.”

FANNIN COUNTY PARKS AND RECREATION

The Fannin County Parks and Recreation Department had a successful year. Many new programs were added to benefit those living in Fannin County and those visiting.

In 2018, 820 children participated in some kind of youth activity offered by the department.

The third annual Basketball Christmas Tournament also brought in large numbers for the county. Sixty-six teams participated in the three day tournament which took place Dec. 26-28. A total of 116 games were played with an average of 2,000 in attendance throughout each day.

“We had a kid playing on the Forsyth team and FetchYourNews, they broadcast it live through Youtube and we had a dad who was a marine,” Fannin County Parks and Recreation Director Eddie O’Neal spoke of how the tournament had international attention in 2018, “He got in contact with us and said he appreciated it. It was the first time he saw his kid play basketball in two years. It was amazing to be able to provide that to someone.”

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Comissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Departments, Department Heads, Update, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, BRMAA, Land Development, Animal Control, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Director, Animal Control Officer, Chief Officer, Fire Chief, Deputy Director, Fannin County Attorney, Nichole Potzauf, Marie Woody, John Drullinger, Darrell Payne, Larry Thomas, Eddie O'Neal, Zack Ratcliff

One of the many games hosted during the Parks and Recreation Christmas Basketball Tournament.

Events like this tournament have large economic impacts on the county as whole. Visitors stay in hotels, rent cabins, eat at local restaurants, shop in locally owned stores, and many times plan to come back to our area for a second visit.

Parks and Recreation brought in $57,078.43 in youth concession sales, $52,257.60 in admission fees, and $59,574 in registrations in 2018. Pavillion rentals at parks added an additional $7,775, along with nonresident gym use fees for $3,051, after school programs at $20,860, summer day camp an additional $20,556.25, and $30, 568 food grant for summer day camp was obtained. Major programs accounted for approximately $251, 721.23, bringing a grand revenue total to approximately $280,000.

“That comes from tons of volunteers in the county. People that volunteer to help with programs, volunteer to coach, or volunteer to tutor with our after school program. We really do appreciate all the help,” Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson spoke of the Parks and Recreation Department’s success.

Johnson added, “The complaints I’ve received have been very minimal and what that tells me is you’re running the programs the way the should be ran and handling problems the way they should be handled. I appreciate you doing that.”

“Being in sports myself and education, the job you do with the young kids is very commendable,” Post 2 Commissioner Glenn Patterson complimented the work being done by the department.

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton added to this, “I think the public, I hope they understand, certainly the parents do, what a relationship our Recreation Department is. I mean it’s for everyone, young and old alike.”

O’Neal shared plans to to begin senior programs in 2019: “Starting in February we will start a Silver Sneakers program for active senior adults. We have an employee trained to handle that exercise program that will take place two times a week.”

This new Silver Sneakers program will be an exercise based program specially geared towards an older crowd. The class size, initially, will accommodate 10 to 15 people.

Next up for Parks and Recreation will be a restroom remodel at their main facility. Commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with a bid from Wolfcreek Builders, LLC. in the amount of $50,075.

This remodel would include a metal roof, hardy plank siding, tiling the interior space, all new fixtures, and metal doors. The contract is for labor only. The county will supply materials.

Heating and air for the newly remodeled space will take place in a separate bid.

FANNIN COUNTY PUBLIC WORKS

Zack Ratcliff, Director of Public Works in Fannin County, has not only managed to cut the department’s expenses by close to $1,000,000 in just two years but his management has also led the Public Works department to more than double productivity in many areas.

In 2016 the Public Works department had 53 employees with a budget of $1,826,505 in payroll alone. The number of employees dramatically decreased by 2017 to 35. This brought payroll expenditures down to $1,308,744.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Comissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson, Departments, Department Heads, Update, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, BRMAA, Land Development, Animal Control, Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Director, Animal Control Officer, Chief Officer, Fire Chief, Deputy Director, Fannin County Attorney, Nichole Potzauf, Marie Woody, John Drullinger, Darrell Payne, Larry Thomas, Eddie O'Neal, Zack Ratcliff

The Public Works crew taking care of the demo of Fire Station 1 in downtown Blue Ridge.

By 2018 employee total for the department sits at 36 with a payroll of $1,289,868. This alone has brought a little over $500,000 in savings to taxpayers each year.

In the last year, roughly 117 miles of road have been re-striped, 12 miles of road have been paved, 25 miles of road have been chip and sealed, the Aska Transfer Station also received chip and seal, as well as the Recreation Center parking area, 28 culverts have been installed, 600 road signs have been cleaned and straightened, and 649 new road signs were created for use throughout the county.

Johnson commented on how this kind of productivity saves money for residents: “The numbers that I see that aren’t reflected in these numbers, of other savings, is when you chip and seal a road, that is that many roads we’re not having to gravel, to grade or to maintain, other than clogged ditches and what have you. So really it’s hard to put a number on that (indirect savings).”

While the payroll is the most dramatic of the savings, other areas have improved in expenditures as well. The Fuel Master system was installed to track fuel use leading to greater accountability, through negotiations with various vendors the county is now receiving 2-10 percent discounts on its bills, and a new uniform provider was found that can provide uniforms at half the cost that the county was previously paying.

Ratcliff credits the success of the Public Works department to the employees in it and stated of the workers, “My crew is an efficient crew. Everybody’s professional.”

Johnson spoke of the dramatic affect one department can have on Fannin County as a whole, “These numbers right here is what keeps Fannin County’s millage rate the lowest in the state.”

“I think this is a great example of being able to professionally manage a department and do it effectively,” Helton added his thoughts on the accomplishments, “That’s real money. That’s big time money.”

The 2017 audit showed the initially savings of the now more efficient Public Works department as being $999,333.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Completion of fire station halted

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – For now construction on the new emergency center / fire station located off of Windy Ridge Road in Blue Ridge will come to a halt. Plans to finish the current construction and move emergency personnel in will continue but a portion of the building that was not deemed to be finished in the current phase will remain undone for the time being.

At the Oct. 9 Fannin County Board of Commissioners meeting unexpected high bids were received for the completion of the project.

Fannin County Emergency Management Director Robert Graham explained that the completion of this particular area of the facility was not necessary for the building itself to be a functional space for emergency management staff.

The main purpose of the incomplete area will be for training and living quarters.

Graham reached out to 25 contractors in hopes of finding a winning bidder to complete the project. Local contractors were included in this list of 25, but no local companies opted to bid.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Emergency Management Agency, Director, Robert Graham, Fire Station, Windy Ridge, Egineered Structures Inc., JM Williams Contractors

An interior picture of the new emergency center during construction.

Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss opened two sealed bids at the meeting.

The first bid came from Engineered Structures, Inc. of Kennesaw, Ga. in the amount of $486,460, and the second bid came from JM Williams Contractors of Marietta, Ga. in the amount of $439,927.

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson was first to express his opinion after a lengthy silence from all the commissioners: “I think it’s way too much money.”

“I feel like that’s really high,” Graham said agreeing with Johnson and adding, “I don’t know what happened between now and last year. That’s almost double what we started out at.”

Graham said this referring to a quote that was given previously for the completion of the area that was substantially less than either of the two new bids.

County Chairman Stan Helton, agreeing with opinions expressed by Johnson and Graham, questioned Graham if any issues, either from safety or structure, would arise by not completing this particular section at the present time.

Graham responded that there would be a need to heat the space in cold temperatures due to the sprinkler system in that area already being live and functioning.

Johnson clarified that the sprinkler system was a wet system: “The lines on a wet system are charged with water at all times and in a dry system they are only charged once needed.”

Graham suggested heating the area with a propane heater, possibly a hanging heater, and that there would be no safety issues in doing so as long as the heater had proper ventilation.

“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t get a more favorable bid on this,” Helton concluded.

Johnson motioned,” I make the motion that we deny both bids due to the extreme cost.”

This motion passed unanimously.

With the area partially complete, Johnson made a last suggestion of looking into the cost of piecemealing the project out to specialized contractors in hopes cutting costs and also encouraging local businesses to bid on the process.

Specific areas mentioned that would need completion include sheetrock, flooring, heating and air, plumbing and electrical.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Discussions continue over Board of Education $250,000 land purchase

News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After news spread of the Fannin County Board of Education’s recent approval to purchase one acre of land on Highway 515 for a price tag of $250,000, citizens questioned the necessity of this purchase and inquired about the legalities of its use.

Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, along with Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss and Fannin County School System’s Director of Facilities and Maintenance Danny Shinpaugh, sat down with FetchYourNews to answer questions and address concerns over this purchase.

This one-acre plot of land, which will serve as a connector to the school system’s new agricultural development positioned off of Ada Street, is located along Highway 515 between Windy Ridge Road and Josh Hall Road.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Danny Shinpaugh, Agricultural Department, Ada Street, Highway 515, Windy Ridge Road, Property Purchase, $250,000, Georgia Department of Transportation, GDOT

Main entrance to agricultural campus will be shared with Fannin County’s new fire station and E-911 center.

Doss explained that the 31 acres off of Ada Street has been under the ownership of the Fannin County School System for many years: “The school system has owned that property for about 15 years.”

According to Doss, the Ada Street land was originally purchased in 2006 with plans to build a new school if the need arose. The land itself was centrally enough located and met state requirements at that time for a new school.

Since the need for a new school never came to pass, the school system, over the years, have looked at a number of ways in which to utilize this property and, in recent years, decided that it would be ideal for an agricultural facility.

The property currently has an entrance/exit along Ada Street, but Gwatney pointed out that it would be used very minimally and primarily in the event of an emergency.

The property’s main point of access is along the Windy Ridge Connector, where the school system has partnered with Fannin County, and a roadway will be shared with the new fire station and allow access to the agricultural facility.

Questions arose about the need for the acre of land located on Highway 515 and the logistics of its use after Gwatney released a statement explaining the purchase.

In the statement, Gwatney said, “If you hear that our school system paid $250,000 for an acre of property, it is true; however, there is more that you need to know about this purchase, and I want you to have the facts.”

Gwatney also pointed out in the same statement that district personnel, including himself, has already met with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), and it has been determined that a deceleration lane may be placed ahead of the existing entrance to the property on Hwy. 515.

No official approval has been granted to the school system to make changes to the property in the GDOT right of way, but a GDOT representative did confirm with school officials that these changes were possible.

Gwatney clarified about circumstances of the possible deceleration lane: “We just wanted to make sure whether it was feasible, and that’s what we talked to GDOT about.”

In order for any improvements to be made to the entrance of the property, including a deceleration or an acceleration lane, permission would have to be granted from GDOT and special permits would need to be obtained by the Fannin County School System.

Fannin County School System’s Director of Facilities and Maintenance Danny Shinpaugh confirmed that any of these improvements would have to be carried out by GDOT-approved contractors and engineers and meet GDOT-approved standards and plans.

According to the GDOT Regulations for Driveway and Encroachment Control, a right turn lane may be required of the school system in order to use this property as an entrance: “Right turn deceleration lane must be constructed at no cost to the Department if the daily site generated Right Turn Volumes (RTV) based on ITE Trip Generation (assuming a reasonable distribution of entry volumes) meet or exceed” 50 right turns into the property daily.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Danny Shinpaugh, Agricultural Department, Ada Street, Highway 515, Windy Ridge Road, Property Purchase, $250,000, Georgia Department of Transportation, GDOT

Ownership and maintaining of a deceleration lane after completion is also described in the GDOT regulations as: “The R/W for accel/decel lanes may be dedicated in fee simple to the Department for the Department to maintain or the applicant must sign an agreement with the Department to maintain the lane to the Department’s standards and to hold harmless the Department in the event that section of roadway is identified in any liability action.”

While the addition of the deceleration lane could be an expensive venture for the school system, Gwatney stated that there are currently no plans to implement the right turn lane, and the main reason for the purchase of the property was for direct Hwy. 515 access and to allow for a variety of options in traffic control onto and off of the land.

“We would have acquired this property without that (deceleration lane),” Gwatney said, explaining the school system’s stance on the purchase. “It wouldn’t be near the worth if we couldn’t do that.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Danny Shinpaugh, Agricultural Department, Ada Street, Highway 515, Windy Ridge Road, Property Purchase, $250,000, Georgia Department of Transportation, GDOT

Site where possible future deceleration/acceleration lanes would be placed.

A question also arose pertaining to whether the property’s existing entrance was already zoned for commercial use, as getting a commercial entrance onto Hwy. 515 could be difficult and costly.

According to the GDOT regulations, in the case of Non-commercial Driveways “a driveway serving a school, government building, church, hospital or other non-commercial organization inviting public use. Design guidelines relating to commercial driveways will be applicable to driveways serving these land uses.”

However, Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss said that this is not a concern for this project: “It’s not a thing where we are because we’re outside of the city limits. In the county, we don’t have zoning, so we have no commercial, residential or industrial.”

While the plans for the one-acre tract are yet to be determined, Gwatney suggested some possible uses. The land could serve as an exit from the facility for southbound traffic turning right onto Hwy. 515, and the main entrance off of Windy Ridge Connector would serve as an exit for northbound traffic allowing this traffic access to a traffic light in order to turn left onto Hwy. 515.

Another plus noted by both Gwatney and Shinpaugh in relation to purchasing this land is the use of the existing buildings on the property.

“The school system is always hurting for storage,” Shinpaugh noted.

The property currently has 18 storage units, all of which have the space to house large equipment. These buildings will be put to use by the school system.

As for the purchase of this tract, Gwatney explained that it was not needed for the land’s original purpose in 2006, but as the purpose of the land changed, so did the needs to accommodate the facility: “It makes our existing project better.”

The new agricultural facility is expected to be completed by June 30 of this year.

[Featured Image: Entrance onto recently purchased property from Highway 515. According to Doss, this entrance will not require a commercial zoning permit.]

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

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Fannin County enters into opioid litigation

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted to enter into litigation involving opioids and the impact that these drugs have on Fannin County.

At the Feb. 13 BOC meeting, Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss presented a proposal that the county be represented in a legal case involving pharmaceutical companies and their distributors.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Geoorgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Opioid Litigation, Opioid Crisis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee signs a contract to enter into litigation regarding the opioid epidemic that has hit Fannin County.

“There has been similar litigation about other drugs in the past,” Doss explained, citing the settlements reached from tobacco companies in the late 1990s.

On Oct. 27, 2017, the state of Georgia acknowledged the opioid crisis as a public health emergency. Between June 2016 and May 2017, opioid doses prescribed in Georgia reached a soaring 541 million. That roughly breaks down to 54 doses for every man, woman and child in the state.
“It’s real. It’s here in Fannin County,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton spoke of the need for the county to acknowledge and address this ongoing epidemic.

The statistics for Fannin County are even higher than that of the state average. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prescribing rate in Fannin County for 2016 was 154.3 doses per 100 people.

The national prescribing rate in 2016 was 66.5 doses per 100 people, and the rate for the state of Georgia was 77.8 per 100 people.

Fannin County also saw five deaths due to overdose in 2016.

“In this county, if you take law enforcement, the jail, you take the court system, this county puts in over five million dollars a year in all those different segments,” Helton said of areas in our county where taxpayers can directly see a loss due to this ongoing crisis.

Doss shared information with the board on how the litigation will work: “It is being done directly by the counties instead of by the states. Any settlement comes directly to the county.”

Marc J. Bern and Partners, LLP will be representing the county in this suit. The agreement of the contract with this firm is that they will provide all upfront costs and would receive 25 percent of any settlement that Fannin County is awarded.

“There is absolutely no money out of pocket for Fannin County,” Doss assured the board.

“This is personal for me,” Fannin County Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson said, expressing his thoughts on the crisis itself. Johnson stated it is not uncommon for workers in the construction industry to be prescribed opioids due to injury from accident.

Mentioning that he has personally witnessed some hard workers succumb to addiction, Johnson added, “It’s just a shame to see what it does to people’s lives.”

Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee motioned that the county enter into litigation concerning the opioid impact on our area, with Johnson seconding Sosebee’s motion. The board voted unanimously in favor of moving forward.

Doss could not give an exact timeline, but estimated that if the suit were successful, Fannin County could start recouping monies lost in two to three years.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

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BOC takes steps to improve Lake Blue Ridge Hiking Trail

News, Parks and Recreation

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County could see improvements to local hiking trails. At the Nov. 28 Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting, commissioners took steps to help secure funding for the Lake Blue Ridge Hiking Trail.

This area includes the Green Creek Campground. “It’s a beautiful little area, but it hasn’t been utilized in quite some time,” Fannin County BOC Chairman Stan Helton remarked.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Commissioner, Chairman, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Parks and Recreation, Eddie O'Neal, Development Authority, Lake Blue Ridge Hiking Trail, Green Creek Campground, SPLOST, General Fund, Hotel/Motel Tax, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Coca-Cola

A view from Lake Blue Ridge Hiking Trail.

“The Development Authority has been working on an arrangement with the Forest Service where we would improve areas, the trailheads, make some ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility along this trail,” Helton explained.

Helton went on to say, “This is a recreational trail grant. It is the second one we’ve actually applied for in the county. Maybe that will increase our odds of getting at least one of them.”

If obtained, the county would have to finance the projects up to $200,000. The grant would then make reimbursements to the county for 80 percent of funds spent.

The commissioners unanimously agreed to sign a resolution, which will allow the Development Authority to move forward with the application process to acquire grant money for improvements to the Lake Blue Ridge trail.

Director of Fannin County Parks and Recreation Eddie O’Neal was present at the meeting to submit a five-year contract renewal to the commissioners. This contract renewal would make Coca-Cola the exclusive provider of beverages for Fannin County concessions.

Describing the contract, O’Neal said, “It is just a basic beverage agreement, to re-up our contract with Coca-Cola. They will be basically your sole provider … to continue their service and delivery they provide to us for all the concessions.”

Coca-Cola recently reinstated a program to provide scoreboards for counties who choose Coca-Cola as their main supplier. In the contract renewal, Coca-Cola will provide Fannin County with three new LED scoreboards.

O’Neal informed commissioners that installation would be the only cost to the county. Helton questioned, “And they will do maintenance repairs on the scoreboards for us?”

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Post One Commissioner, Post Two Commissioner, Chairman, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Parks and Recreation, Eddie O'Neal, Development Authority, Lake Blue Ridge Hiking Trail, Green Creek Campground, SPLOST, General Fund, Hotel/Motel Tax, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Coca-Cola

Eddie O’Neal discusses renewal of Coca-Cola contract with BOC.

To this, O’Neal responded that Coca-Cola would indeed be responsible for repairs. Two of these scoreboards will be delivered in 2018, and the third will come in 2019.

Before signing the contract Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson discussed the possibility of price increases with the contract and asked O’Neal, “So this is a set price throughout the remainder of the contract?”

O’Neal explained that Coca-Cola had the option of increasing the price by three percent each year, but could not go over that percentage. BOC Chairman Stan Helton motioned to sign the contract, Johnson seconded the motion and all three commissioners approved the renewal of the Coca-Cola contract with the county.

Christmas bonuses for county employees were also approved. Helton and Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee discussed staying with tradition and approving $100 bonuses for all county employees.

Helton asked Johnson for his input on the bonuses to which Johnson replied, “I’m not going to be Ebenezer.” The bonuses were unanimously approved by the board.

Finance Director Robin Gazaway sought approval for the opening of two new bank accounts to earmark certain percentages of SPLOST funds for specific projects.

Gazaway stated, “I wanted to separate the money for each of the different (projects). Right now we have the roads and bridges, and we have the capital improvements. This new one we are going have roads and bridges, capital improvements, recreation department, and the admin(istration) parking deck.”

Sosebee pointed out that separating the accounts would be a positive step and would make for “more accountability.”

Discussion of these accounts lead Johnson to bring forward a long standing issue he has had with the hotel/motel tax being deposited into the general fund.

Johnson would like to be able to present the public with a more accurate account of where this money is being spent. All commissioners agreed this is an issue that should be addressed and would like to discuss setting up a public workshop on the matter in early 2018.

Johnson also took time at the end of the meeting to discuss items brought up at the Nov. 14 BOC meeting. He questioned when the commissioners would address whether or not County Attorney Lynn Doss would represent the entire board or would continue to only represent the BOC Chairman.

Sosebee felt that this matter would be better resolved if addressed after the passing of the 2018 Budget and after the holidays. Sosebee and Johnson agreed to revisit the issue in the beginning of the new year.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

FBI Investigation? Fannin County House of Cards

Featured, Featured Stories, News

“Some would rather climb a tree to tell a lie than stand on the ground and tell the truth” BKP

Monday afternoon July 18th in a Pickens County Courtroom Senior Judge Richard Winegarden signed the nolle prosequi orders dropping the charges against Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason and Attorney Russell Stookey.

Thomason and Stookey were arrested Friday 6-24-16. Thomason was charged with three counts; identity fraud, attempt to commit identity fraud and making a false statement. Stookey was charged with two counts; identity fraud and attempt to commit identity fraud.

Appalachian Judicial District Chief Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver filed the complaint with the District Attorney’s office. District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee presented the charges to a Pickens County Grand Jury made up of sixteen citizens. The Grand Jury returned true bills on both Thomason and Stookey.

When the charges were dropped that made the file concerning this case open for the public to view, FYN spent Friday afternoon thoroughly reviewing the file.  I listened to the witness interviews several times.

Immediately after the court adjourned Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss did an interview with Channel 2’s Mark Winne.  (Doss interview with Mark Winne.)  She told Winne she has spoken with the FBI three times since March.

Mark Thomason, Russell Stookey, Lynn Doss, and Fannin Probate Judge Scott Kiker have made claims that there is currently an FBI investigation into Judge Brenda Weaver and Judge Roger Bradley.  Thomason, Stookey, and Doss have made the same claims concerning the FBI during interviews.  Witness interviews claim Kiker told them about the FBI investigation in detail.

Throughout the DA’s investigation one name kept coming up, County Attorney Lynn Doss. It is common knowledge in the Appalachian Judicial District that Doss does not care very much for Judge Roger Bradley.  I stated in a previous article a comment Doss made to me regarding her feelings for Bradley.

Doss serves as the Attorney for Fannin County, Fannin County Water Authority, and the Fannin County Board of Education.  Her husband Harry Doss is the Fannin County Juvenile Public Defender and the Fannin County Probate Judge Public Defender. The Doss’s have received a lot of money for several years from Fannin County taxpayers.  Side note, FYN has researched Doss and Kiker court cases from Cobb to Towns Counties and have found several cases where Lynn Doss and Scott Kiker are co-counsel.  See any conflict with that?  Doss is public defender in Kiker’s courtroom.  Also what happened to the promise Kiker made the voters of Fannin County that he would be a full-time Probate Judge?  Far from it, Kiker has private cases in several counties. And that is a story for another day.

Lynn Doss thoroughly understands attorney/client privilege so why would she risk losing a client like Fannin County Board of Commissioners who pays her $5,708 per month, $68,496 a year?  I asked Chairman Bill Simonds if he knew that Fannin County was being investigated by the FBI and also if he knew Doss was speaking to the FBI? Simonds told us he just found out in the last couple of weeks and was not aware of any conversations Doss was having or may have had with the FBI.

Remember the checks from the Judge’s account which Thomason claimed appeared to have been illegally cashed?  Who gave the checks to Stookey or Thomason?  During an interview with DA Investigator Greg Arp, Simonds told Arp he understood that Doss said she thought the FBI would be contacting her and so Doss wanted the checks.  Simonds went on to say, his understanding was that Doss gave the checks to Stookey who in turn gave them to Thomason.  

So if Doss told Simonds about the FBI possibly contacting her why did she not come back to her client (Fannin County) and confirm her involvement with the FBI investigation once she was actually contacted?

Investigator Arp asked Simonds if Doss ever admitted to him who she gave the checks to?  Simonds replied “Oh Yeah!  She gave the checks to this Stookey guy. She is the county attorney.  She has no F****** business giving checks out to nobody especially another attorney.  She said ‘I do that all the time, I give out numbers.’  Simonds said, ‘Lynn this is a lot different than a F****** telephone number, this ain’t no telephone number.’  She lied about it.  I think this is a d*** vendetta.  Lynn is vindictive.”

The DA’s investigators Greg Arp and Christy O’Dell interviewed Rita Davis Kirby.  Kirby is Fannin County’s CFO.  Kirby told investigators that she gave the check in question to Doss and only Doss.  

“She is the only one who had the checks. The only person who had copies of those checks.  It’s obvious that Lynn is the only one with copies of the checks from Fannin County.  If Mark Thomason has a copy of them it came to him from Lynn Doss.  In March Lynn comes in and asks me for a copy of the third quarter, second, third and fourth quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016 of Judge Bradley’s checks.  She said I have gotten word the FBI is going to be looking into this and they will probably call me so if you will just go ahead and get those for me I will have them when they contact me.  I got her the copies and sent them to her. She sent me an email and said could I go ahead and give her the other two judges just for the sake of not singling any one judge out. Something to that effect.  She emailed me. Kirby said Doss never came back and said anything about the FBI investigation. “

Kirby was asked if the FBI had made any requests to the commissioner’s office?

“No, and that is what’s strange to me as well.”

Kirby recounted a meeting with investigators between Doss, Simonds, and herself concerning who Doss gave the checks to and how she knew they had been cashed. “ When Bill got a copy of the Open Records Request that Thomason sent Chairman Rob Jones in Pickens County, Lynn came in and was in Bill’s office.  Kirby went into Bill’s office and sat down.  Lynn read a copy of the email and told Bill she needed to talk to him about this.  She needed to explain.  She said this is crazy (Lynn), I could kill Mark Thomason (jokingly).  All I know about this is ‘Mark Thomason received copies of these checks from Rita,’ and I (Kirby) stopped her.   I said “No, Lynn, No he didn’t.”   “I thought I had given him those checks but I didn’t.  I went back to verify that.  I did not give those checks to Mark Thomason, you are the only one I gave those checks too. She said (Lynn) I’m not sure how he got them.”

The reasoning behind the investigation is there is a problem about ‘if’ the checks have been cashed and they’re not supposed to be cashed.  Lynn said on the back of the check in the upper left hand corner on Judge Bradley’s checks there are numbers that go across and we understand and were told it was a teller override. (Rita said) I told her that was not a teller override and Lynn said, I spoke to Ruth Jordan and she told me that it was a teller override.

Kirby said she was in the room when Simonds asked Doss who she gave the checks to. “Doss told Bill she gave the checks to Stookey who is Mark Thomason’s Attorney.  At that point Bill looked at her and said, “you did what?”  She said it’s open records and I gave them to Stookey.  She said it’s no different than me giving a phone number to an attorney without asking if she could give the number out.  Bill said that ain’t quite the same thing.”

Kirby implied throughout the interview that she feels that Doss shares county information with Thomason.

Did Ruth Jordan tell Lynn Doss that the checks appeared to have been cashed because of the numbers on the back of the check? Jordan is the Blue Ridge Branch Manager of Community & Southern Bank.

DA Investigators O’Dell and Arp interviewed Jordan. Jordan immediately let them know she could not answer questions for the bank but she could talk about procedural issues.

If we show you the back of the check could you tell us if it’s a teller override?

Jordan, “You would not be able to tell anything about the back of the check, I think that is the whole issue somebody doesn’t understand.”

So you couldn’t look at the back of the check and tell if it’s a teller override?

Jordan, “no,no.”

Jordan, “This is what I told everyone I did have a conversation with but I have not had a conversation with any attorney.”

So you haven’t talked with Miss Doss?

Jordan, “No.”

Jordan, “Concerning the back of the check in question, “this is a routing number, that is all that is.”

Investigator Odell, is there anything on the back of the check that you can tell that it’s been

cashed, deposited, whatever….?

Jordan,

“Absolutely not.”

Jordan,

 “Procedural-wise, as far as Community and Southern’s bank policy, a check like that should never be cashed. That’s a business check. It’s a business check. One person does not have ownership of that check. So that check should have been deposited.  Now, there is a For Deposit Only here. There is nothing on the back of this check that can tell you the check has been cashed, deposited, you can’t tell anything. There is nothing back there to tell that. It’s a routing number, branch number and teller number.”

Investigator, The only reason you are here is because your name specifically has come up as having a conversation with a certain attorney that has indicated that you were able to tell them from the back of that check. You have not had any conversation with Mrs. Doss regarding any of this?

Jordan, “No”

Any conversation with Mrs. Doss regarding teller overrides? “No”

Jordan, “I have not spoken to Lynn Doss.  I will not disclose anyone’s personal information. It’s not going to happen.”

When discussing the subpoena Jordan said, “I was shocked and amazed. I have never gotten a subpoena that was not served by an officer.  If a deputy would have showed up with that subpoena it would have been filled out by someone before they got here with it. Generally when I get one on something like that they serve notice and generally they want someone to sign showing I received it.  They were here literally wanting us to give them something and I’m like what, we don’t do that.  I don’t think they understood.  I was shocked that they had what looked like nearly a blank subpoena and I just said I don’t know anything about this.  I don’t know what you’re looking for.  You’re going to have to give me some information.”

Investigators showed Jordan the check that supposedly had been cashed illegally. Jordan said there was nothing on the check that indicated a teller override or that it had been cashed.

A check when deposited with a teller show the teller’s number so why not just go to the teller and ask if they cashed or deposited the check?

So why did Doss tell Simonds and Kirby that Jordan said the check appeared to be cashed? Who told Thomason the check appeared to be cashed?  Remember that is what Thomason said in the email he sent Pickens County Commissioner Rob Jones. The email to Jones was an for an open records request.  Who gave Thomason his information?

What about the FBI Investigation?   In one witness interview with “Mr. X” he tells Arp and O’Dell that there are two FBI agents doing the investigation. FYN has learned the name of one FBI Agent, Jamie Harter.

Mr. X told Arp and O’Dell the following:  Scott Kiker told me that a whistleblower came to Mark Thomason.  Kiker would never tell me who the whistleblower was.  Only thing Kiker told me was that the whistleblowers had been granted immunity from prosecution. There are two FBI agents.

Kiker said the reason he got involved was he and Thomason had to sign a paper before the FBI would investigate. They had to sign a paper saying that Mark had asked them to come up here.  Thomason told Kiker he was afraid to sign it without some legal representation so he requested Scott Kiker to be his legal representation and then he signed the thing and gave it back to the FBI.

So if Scott Kiker is Thomason’s legal counsel concerning the FBI investigation does he know who the whistleblower is?  Does he know whom the FBI offered immunity?  FYN has reached out to Lynn Doss and Scott Kiker with a list of questions.  At the time of this article they have not responded.  At the bottom of this article you will see a list of questions we have asked both Doss and Kiker.  We will post their answers as soon as they respond.

Remember the attempt to commit identity fraud in the indictment of Thomason.  We found something very interesting in the DA’s file.  It may be irrelevant but we feel it’s worth mentioning.

In this letter from Assistant District Attorney Chase G. Queen of the Enotah Judicial Circuit, Thomason may have committed identity fraud.

(Article continues under the letter)12ChristyLetter800Check back as this story continues to develop “Fannin County House of Cards.”

FYN would like to be clear regarding the allegations of “cashed checks” there hasn’t been any proof presented at this time which supports the claims of checks being cashed.

Below is the list of questions for Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss and Fannin County Probate Judge Scott Kiker.

Mr. Kiker,

I have reviewed the entire file including listening to all of the witness interviews in the case that was dropped last week against Mark Thomason and Russell Stookey.

  1. One witness stated that Thomason had to sign a form and send it back to the FBI before they would look into Thomason’s complaint. The witness stated that he (Thomason) brought the paperwork to you and I understand you signed as Thomason’s Attorney. Did you sign a document along with Mark Thomason that was sent back to the FBI?
  1. Have you spoken to or met with the FBI?
  1. Have you and Lynn Doss ever spoken with or met with the FBI together?
  1. Did Lynn Doss tell you she was speaking with the FBI? When was the first time you knew that Lynn Doss was involved with the FBI investigation?
  1. One witness said that you told him there was a whistleblower at UCBI and the FBI has granted this person immunity from prosecution. How are you aware of this information?  Who told you (Mark Thomason, Lynn Doss, FBI…)? Do you know the identity of the whistleblower?
  1. One witness said that when he confronted you about the whistleblower  and UCBI you said it was a rumor Mark Thomason started.  Is it a rumor?
  1. Did you represent Greg Joseph Staffins in a shoplifting case in Union County?
  1. Does the Fannin County Probate Court have or use investigators?
  1. Has Mark Thomason ever worked for the Probate Court as an investigator?
  1. Are you aware that allegedly Mark Thomason went into the Blairsville Wal-Mart and identified himself to Wal-Mart employee Jeff Griffin as an investigator for the Fannin County Probate Court specifically Judge Scott Kiker’s Investigator?
  1. According to Jeff Griffin, Thomason asked to see Wal-Mart case reports on the shoplifting case against Greg Joseph Staffins. Was your office ever contacted by the Union County DA’s office inquiring about Thomason’s relationship to the Probate Court and yourself?

Mrs. Doss,

I am working on an article concerning a possible FBI investigation you discussed in a recent interview.  I have listened to the witness interview from the Mark Thomason-Russell Stookey case and have several questions.

  1. You said you have communicated with the FBI 3 times. Were those phone conversations or meetings?
  2. Did you provide the FBI with any Fannin County documents?
  3. At any time did you make the Fannin County Chairman Bill Simonds aware of your involvement with an FBI investigation?
  4. Who (name) did you talk to at the FBI?
  5. Did you give the checks in question to Russell Stookey or Mark Thomason?
  6. Did you contact the FBI first?
  7. Did Ruth Jordan tell you the numbers on the check showed the checks had been cashed?
  8. Did you tell Chairman Simonds, with Rita Kirby present, that you gave the checks to Stookey and that Ruth Jordan told you the checks had an override number on them indicating they had been cashed?
  9. Did you tell Mark Thomason the checks appeared to have been cashed?
  10. Have you ever had a conversation with Scott Kiker concerning the FBI investigation in this matter?
  11. Has Scott Kiker or Mark Thomason shared with you the name of the whistleblower?
  12. Have you signed any paperwork with the FBI?

Related articles:

Fannin Focus Publisher Mark Thomason Arrested, Journalist or Vendetta?

Subpoena that Landed Journalist Mark Thomason and Attorney Russell Stookey in Jail

Ads in Fannin Focus do not show up correctly in Sheriff Candidates Campaign Financial Reports

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Fannin Focus Publisher Mark Thomason Arrested, Journalist or Vendetta?

News

“If someone starts a fire, takes pictures, calls for a fire truck, follows the fire truck to the scene, asks what happened, writes the story, does that make them a journalist or an arsonist?” BKP

Lynn Doss,  Fannin County Attorney, “If (Judge) Roger Bradley was on fire I would throw a bucket of gasoline on him.”

A Pickens County Grand Jury returned true bills on Friday, June 24th and indicted Fannin Focus Publisher Mark Brannon Thomason for 1 count of Identity Fraud, 1 count of Attempt to Commit Identity Fraud, and 1 count of Making a False Statement.  Thomason’s Attorney, Russell Stookey of Hiawassee Georgia, was also indicted for 1 count of Identity Fraud and 1 count of Attempt to Commit Identity Fraud. Thomason and Stookey were released Saturday the 25th on $10,000 bond with conditions. Ashleigh Merchant from Atlanta is Thomason’s Attorney.

Immediately on Monday morning Thomason started looking for any media outlet who would listen to his story. Journalist arrested, claiming his First Amendment Rights had been violated. Repeating to anyone who would listen how he was arrested for making an open records request, requesting checks from the Appalachian Judicial District Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver and (retired) Judge Roger Bradley claiming the checks appeared to have been cashed instead of deposited.

Thomason knew asserting his rights were violated- Freedom of the Press, Open Records Requests and possible judicial corruption would bring the media out of the woodwork in his defense. He was right. State and National Media outlets and publications have rushed to write “Journalist Jailed.”  Even Georgia First Amendment Foundation wrote “North Georgia publisher jailed in open records matter” and has offered its help to Thomason. In a comment to the Dalton Free Citizen Thomason indicated he plans to file a First Amendment lawsuit because he believes the arrest was a clear example of government “retaliating against a citizen for exercising First Amendment rights.”

Thomason is playing the “poor journalist went to jail” act really well. He made the following comment on his FaceBook page “It’s sad that we live in a world where a message is now being sent to all journalist–you do your job and you just may go to jail!”. Thomason’s quote in AJC “I was astounded, in disbelief that there were even any charges to be had,” said Thomason, 37, who grew up in Fannin County. “I take this as a punch at journalists across the nation that if we continue to do our jobs correctly, then we have to live in fear of being imprisoned.”

 

“Vendetta, a series of acts done by someone over a long period of time to cause harm to a disliked person or group”

As a defender of Freedom of the Press,  before everyone rushes to the defense of the Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason, let’s take a look at some of the inconsistencies in his story. We will identify the possibility of vendettas which Thomason and others may have against Judge Roger Bradley and Judge Brenda Weaver.

Thomason’s reason for wanting to see the Judges’ checks he claims is because he received a tip. Sources tell FYN that many of Thomason’s tips came from Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss.

In the Dalton Free Citizen article Thomason told a reporter while the lawsuits were dismissed, and her request to have attorney’s fees paid were denied, Thomason received another tip that the court reporter’s legal expenses were paid out of public funds, viz. Judge Weaver’s court expense funds that are paid out of the Fannin County general fund budget. That’s when Thomason made the open records request for the checks.  

This statement may be inconsistent with the facts. Thomason’s claim that he wanted the checks to prove how the court reporter Rhonda Stubblefield’s legal expenses had been paid may not be valid. Why would he need this when he has the letter? Judge Brenda Weaver sent a letter on November 24, 2015 to Gilmer County Chairman Charlie Paris, Pickens County Chairman Rob Jones and Fannin County Chairman Bill Simonds. The letter explains the reasoning for approving the payment of Stubblefield’s legal expenses from Judge Bradley’s operating account. Judge Weaver asks for the Chairman to contact her if they have any opposition to the payment.  Thomason had a copy of the letter. Thomason even wrote an article in his paper concerning Weaver paying Stubblefield’s legal expenses.

Thomason has never commented about the fact that he lost the case he brought against court reporter Rhonda Stubblefield. Thomason’s claim that audio in the courtroom did not match the transcript was never proved. Thomason and his Attorney Russell Stookey put on quite the show during the court proceedings. Claiming there were several witnesses who could prove the audio and transcript had been altered. Judge Martha Christian accepted their request to depose and present witnesses. On the day of the trial when the court read the list of depositions entered into evidence several were missing.  Mary Beth Priest,  attorney for Stubblefield, questioned the missing depositions. Judge Christian asked Stookey about the depositions which were missing from the witness list. Stookey seemed surprised and, after a short recess, reported to the court that they found out that the court reporter had not been paid so she did not file the depositions in the Clerk of Courts office. Stookey told Judge Christian that they were in the process of paying the court reporter and the depositions would be filed. Although this caused a delay in the case Judge Christian accepted having the depositions filed at a later date for her to read. It appeared Judge Christian was giving Thomason and Stookey every opportunity to prove their case. In court Stookey always liked to play the F.B.I. is investigating the case and his client is being followed and is in fear for his life. Judge Christian ruled that Stubblefield filed the transcript in question properly with the clerk’s office and there was no evidence the audio had been altered.

Who was adding fuel to the fire and pushing Thomason on what to do next? I remember Lynn Doss coming into the courtroom and sitting next to Thomason. In the back of the courtroom the two of them would review paperwork and Doss would whisper into Thomason’s ear.

So was Thomason being the great investigative reporter everyone is giving him credit for or just staying focused on the agenda and vendetta. Doss had nothing to do with the case so why was she sitting in the back with Thomason during the case. Doss is the Attorney for Fannin County, Fannin County Water Authority, and Fannin County Board of Education along with her private practice. I am sure she had much more pressing issues to handle rather than to be sitting in the courtroom with Thomason whispering in his ear. Maybe a vendetta.

This was never about Rhonda Stubblefield. She was the one caught in the middle of the vendetta. Do you think Lynn Doss and Mark Thomason are just trying to do the right thing by Ray Green you know, aka  N…. Ray?

From an artical in Gawker.com

Thomason, whose dedication to this courtroom slur story is really something else, had his lawyer file paperwork in an attempt to legally compel the stenographer, whose name is Rhonda Stubblefield, to release the audio recording. She filed a counterclaim, asking Thomason for $1.6 million in damages(!) for allegedly defaming her in his story by implying that her transcripts might not be completely accurate. A judge closed Thomason’s case against Stubblefield, and Stubblefield dropped her counterclaim.

 

Didn’t quite happen that way. Stubblefield did not drop her $1.6 million defamation case because Judge Christian closed Thomason’s case against her. Thomason lost his case. When Thomason lost it basically confirmed that most likely Stubblefield would win the $1.6 million defamation case.  

 

When FYN asked Stubblefield’s Attorney Mary Beth Priest why they dropped the case she told us they could not find any value in the Fannin Focus or Thomason personally. Thomason claims to be the owner of the paper. Sources tell FYN that Thomason lives in his mother’s basement. In May the Fannin Focus was served a dispossessory notice on its office space in the amount of $16,000 for back rent.  In 2009 Ford Motor filed a Fi Fa (Writ of Fieri Facias) in the amount $18,638.73.

On January 21st of this year Tonya Nuelle filed a complaint in Fannin Magistrate court stating “I loaned Mark $3,300 on 10/04/15 he promised to pay me back in full on 10/31/15. He has paid me nothing as of to date.  Sources tell FYN there is a list of people that have loaned Thomason money who have not been repaid. Mystery surrounds the source of revenue for the Fannin Focus. Stubblefield’s attorney told FYN after the research on Thomason and the Fannin Focus her client was going to have to invest a lot of money into a court case and come out with basically a worthless piece of paper.

Thomason told the Dalton Free Citizen Dalton “ According to the rural north Georgia journalist, he simply made open records requests that made people in powerful positions angry.”

 

Again not a true statement. Thomason was never denied an open records request.

Thomason sent an open records request to Fannin County CFO Rita Davis Kirby for copies of checks. When Kirby sent Thomason the cost from the bank to get the checks and redact them she never heard back from Thomason. Thomason was not denied the open records. FYN has a copy of an email Pickens County CFO Faye Harvey sent Thomason concerning his request for the checks.  

From: Faye Harvey  Sent: Tuesday, June 14, 2016 9:35 AM To: markusamongusbr@gmail.com

Cc: Robert Jones; Deborah Watson Subject: Open Records request

I received your request for documents regarding the Judges’ quarterly operating expense for the previous 3 years. I estimate that the retrieval and printing of the cleared checks from our bank account archives will take 3.5 hours and can be done by my assistant, whose hourly rate is $18.00.   The cost for performing this request is $58.50 for personnel time plus $2.40 for copies.  Please forward payment in the amount of $60.90 and we will begin compiling the requested information. I am attaching a copy of Pickens County’s open record request form which is on the county website pickenscountyga.gov under the “Pickens County” tab on the home page. Best regards, Faye Harvey, Finance Director Pickens County Government

 

Faye Harvey never received a response from Thomason. No one denied Thomason the checks through open records request. Another false statement from Thomason. If Thomason would have received the checks through open records request the account and routing numbers would have been redacted.

So how did he and his Attorney Russell Stookey get copies of the checks? Could it have been Lynn Doss? Did Lynn Doss misuse her position as County Attorney to get the checks and then give them to Thomason and Stookey with the account numbers still on the checks? Maybe the District Attorney missed one indictment in this story?

Why did Thomason think the checks had been cashed instead of deposited? What would lead him to believe the numbers on the check indicated they had been cashed. How did he know what was on the checks? Would he once again be following the lead of Lynn Doss. We understand Doss told people a local Bank Executive Manager said the numbers on the checks indicated an override and the checks had been cashed. Wonder if Thomason heard this from Doss? We understand the Bank Executive denies telling anyone what the numbers indicated. The Bank Executive is on the witness list which District Attorney B. Allison presented to the Grand Jury.

Pickens County CFO Faye Harvey, Gilmer County CFO Sandi Holden, and Fannin County CFO Rita Davis Kirby released a statement stating they had reviewed the front and back of each check and all checks appear to have been endorsed properly (Deposit Only) and deposited into the proper accounts. The Statements are posted at the bottom of this article.

There is a difference between a motion for evidence using a subpoena and an open records request. So if the case is closed, Stubblefield has dropped her case and you know for a fact that Stubblefield’s legal expenses have been paid out of Judge Bradley’s operating account why push so hard for checks? To prove what?

Maybe Lynn Doss? Doss’s husband resigned as a Superior Court Judge as the JQC was preparing to recommend formal charges for Harry Doss in 2009.

“Judge under state investigation resigns

By TOM CRAWFORD | Published: NOVEMBER 9, 2009

Judge Oliver Harris “Harry” Doss Jr. of Blue Ridge, who was facing the possibility of a trial before the Judicial Qualifications Commission on charges concerning his behavior in courtroom proceedings, has resigned his Superior Court judgeship effective Dec. 5.In his resignation letter to Gov. Sonny Perdue, Doss said he was told that the JQC, using “newly discovered information,” was going to file formal charges against him. Those charges could be avoided, Doss said, if he resigned from the bench by Nov. 7; his letter of resignation is dated Nov. 6.”

Lynn Doss made the remark to FYN in the past that she thought Brenda Weaver and Roger Bradley were involved in her husband’s JQC investigation that eventually lead to her husband’s resignation.

Lynn Doss has such a dislike for Roger Bradley she didn’t even want to have Bradley preside over one of her cases. When Scott Kiker became Probate Judge Chief Judge Brenda Weaver entered a recusal order for all Judges in the district to not preside over Kiker’s cases. Knowing this Doss went as far as to have Fannin County Probate Judge Scott Kiker enter an appearance on one of her cases to force Bradley to recuse himself and have the case assigned to a visiting Judge. Lynn Doss and Scott Kiker are co-counsel on several cases and her husband Harry Doss is the Fannin County Probate Court Public Defender where Kiker is the Judge. Interesting.

Vendetta? Maybe.  Rogers gone, now Brenda? Maybe Kiker wanted one of the open Superior Court seats? He interviewed for the seat with Governor Deal. There is much more to this part of the story we don’t have time for today. Oh, by the way, Mark Thomason is Scott Kiker’s cousin. Just say’in.

Questions surround Thomason’s bond conditions. First let’s look at the drug testing. Thomason is no stranger to court ordered drug testing. Just check court records. In Thomason’s divorce, which Judge Bradley presided over in 2011, in Thomason’s ex-wife’s petition for full custody of the two minor children, she made a statement to the court that while the children were in Thomason’s custody he used illegal drugs. Judge Bradley awarded full custody of the two minor children to his ex-wife and gave Thomason supervised visitation. Court records show that Thomason has been in contempt of the order several times for back child support. Judge Bradley even ordered Thomason arrested in the past for his neglect to pay his child support. Maybe some reasons for a vendetta against the judge? Just this May, Division of Child Support Services issued a Complaint for Contempt against Thomason for back child support in the amount $2,004.00. Sources tell FYN Harry Doss may be his attorney in this matter.

On June 5th 2012 Fannin Magistrate Court issued a warrant for Thomason’s arrest for theft by taking. Jeffery Meeks claimed Thomason took $350, a checkbook, a birth certificate, a social security card and other miscellaneous papers from his car. Thomason was released on a $1,000 bond.

Thomason says one of his bond conditions is he can not be within 200 yard of the witness the District Attorney plans to call in the case. Some of the witnesses include Lynn Doss, Rita Davis Kirby, Ruth Jordan, Scott Kiker, Bill Simonds, Robert Jones, Melissa Queen, Dana Chastain, and Carol Caywood (Stearns Bank). There are several more.

So Mark Thomason and his Attorney Russell Stookey want you to believe that District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee presented this to a grand jury made up of sixteen Pickens County Citizens who don’t even know who they are but returned a true bill indicting Thomason on three counts and Stookey on two counts because Thomason angered some powerful people with a open records request. I can’t wait to watch this play out, maybe more indictments to come.  Journalist jailed or Vendetta?

Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney Alison Sosebee told the AP on Friday that the false statement “has nothing to do with an attempt of Mr. Thomason to access records utilizing the Open Records Act.”

She said the charge “specifically relates to the statement that he included within his request.” Sosebee said she couldn’t elaborate on the charges since the case is open but that the charges related to Thomason and Stookey’s use of the subpoena were “based on a totality of the circumstances.”

One should question why the online news network who wrote “Video Journalist Forcefully Removed From Republican Meeting!” and was a guest of Nydia Tisdale’s at this past years Georgia First Amendment Foundation Banquet has not written a story in defense of Thomason? Because there is much more to the story that Thomason is sharing with all who will listen.

The way Thomason’s publication, the Fannin Focus,  reads one may get the idea they have an agenda. An article in the AJC by Rhonda Cook stated Judge Brenda Weaver said others in the community were using Thomason to get her. “It’s clear this is a personal vendetta against me,” she said. “I don’t know how else to explain that.”

The vendetta against Judge Weaver and Bradley go way back for Lynn Doss and Mark Thomason. Both for different reasons. When Bradley used the racial slur in the courtroom, “N” Ray, Doss was quick to let everyone who would listen know what the Judge said. She called FYN to tell us what happened. You could hear the excitement in her voice as she explained what Bradley said in the courtroom. She exclaimed this is big. I don’t see how Bradley will survive this one. FYN told Doss we would start gathering the facts so that we could write the story. In a Dalton Citizen article by Jim Zachary, Thomason said Back in early 2015 he had gotten wind of another local judge using racial slurs in open court. That wind was Lynn Doss. FYN received the same wind from Lynn Doss. When Doss contacted FYN about the story she let us know Mark Thomason was already on the story.

Doss called FYN the following day to inquire about when we would be writing a story concerning what Bradley said in the courtroom. I told Doss that at this time I could not verify  what took place in the courtroom and did not know who said what. Accusations were being made about several people and I needed more information before I could write anything. Her tone noticeably changed and she became angry. That is when she told me,  “If Roger Bradley was on fire I would throw a bucket of gasoline on him.”

This comment made me realize she was more interested in me being a part of her vendetta against Bradley than FYN writing an accurate story for our readers. It was clear that this was much more to her and Thomason than a racial slur.

Wonder if Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss will ever have to explain that comment and just how far she would take her vendetta against both Superior Court Judges Roger Bradley and Brenda Weaver. We may soon find out.

Allen Duray Green AKA Ray Green AKA N….Ray. I met Ray Green approximately 13 years ago in Union County on a construction job site. I was waiting to meet Ray concerning some building materials he wanted to purchase. When Ray showed up he got out of his truck and introduced himself to me as N…. Ray. I said Mr. Green, he stopped me and said everyone calls me N…. Ray. I am the N…. of Union County.  So when Ray Green says with tears in his eyes that he is so hurt because he has never been N…. Ray, he is Ray Green. That is a lie. Click here to watch my video interview with Ray Green. When Thomason sued Rhonda Stubblefield over the court audio one of his witnesses, Walter Liete, in his deposition under oath admitted to  how Ray Green referred to himself. N…. Ray. Wonder if Thomason knows this?

Judge Bradley was hearing a bond revocation motion for Robert Vivian AKA Robo the day the racial slur was used in the courtroom. The District Attorney’s office was asking for Vivian’s bond to be revoked based on accusations that Vivian was threatening witnesses in his case. Ray Green was in the courtroom as a witness for Vivian. Vivian and Green were business partners in construction. The transcript showed that the Assistant District Attorney Martin referred to Ray Green using his street name N…. Ray. That lead to Judge Bradley to ask if N…. Ray was relation to a Fannin County man back in the 70’s who everyone referred to N…. Bob. The Judge said in the transcript he was not saying that disparagingly. Everyone knew Bob referred to himself as N…. Bob. FYN knows this to be true on both accounts, Ray and Bob. Click to read court transcript.

 

A couple of months after Vivian’s Bond revocation hearing where the racial slur was said Vivian pled guilty in front of Judge Amanda Mercier in a Gilmer County Courtroom. FYN was present. Vivian was sentenced for one count of arson, one count of burglary, and one count of theft by taking. Sentenced to 30 years and to serve 9 years with the balance to be served on probation. Robert Vivian and Ray Green with the help of Mark Thomason did everything they could to use the “N” word to muddy the waters in Vivian’s case.

You see I could write much more I was there and can tell the story in detail.


boc-letters

Lynn Doss and Lane Bishop Discuss Assessors’ Budget

Police & Government

Lane Bishop, Chairman of Board of Assessors for Fannin County

 

Lane Bishop, Chairman of the Board of Assessors, stood before the Board of Commissioners at the March 8th meeting to clarify the presentation given by Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran at the previous Board of Commissioners meeting. At that meeting, Ms. Cochran gave a lengthy list of examples of mechanical failures of cars the Assessors’ office uses during its daily work are putting Assessors’ safety at risk and impeding the possibility to complete tax digest mandate from the state.  Towards the end of her presentation, Ms. Cochran told the Commissioners that the Board of Assessors had bought a car and was seeking bids for another used vehicle. Post Commissioner 1 Earl Johnson, strenuously questioned the Tax Assessors office about purchasing a new vehicle and acquiring bids for another car without going through the Board of Commissioners.  This subject also prompted an across room debate between Mr. Johnson and Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss as to the budget decisions that the legally semi-independent Assessors office is allowed to make on its own.  Ms. Doss stated from her seat among the general public that she was searching on-line and texting colleagues at that very moment to clarify the extent of budget independence of a Tax Assessors office in Georgia.  Mr. Johnson also asked when she could let the Board of Commissioners know the results of her research.

During his March 8th presentation, Mr. Bishop stated to the Commissioners and public that as Chairman of the Board of Tax Assessors, he had asked Ms. Cochran to describe the current dangerous condition of the cars to the Commissioners.  He went on to say that the Board of Assessors has decided to follow whatever budget protocols the Commission has set up, including sending all invoices over $4,500 to be approved by the Board of Commissioners, even though this is not legally required due to the semi-independent status of the Tax Assessors office.  Mr. Bishop also thanked Commission Chairman Bill Simonds for graciously loaning a fire and rescue squad vehicle to the Tax Assessors office until another car can be purchased and the mechanical problems of other cars can be fixed.  Mr. Simonds also told Mr. Bishop to bring the cars one by one to the county garage to be fixed and to let him (Mr. Simonds) know when the cars are there so that he can oversee their repairs.  Mr. Johnson made it known to the public that the County’s priority is with the safety of its employees.  In fact, during the March 8th meeting, the Commissioners approved purchase of a used car for the Assessors office.

Later that week, FetchYourNews.com asked Mr. Bishop about his presentation in front of the Commissioners. Mr. Bishop said that there is a very legitimate reason why the Tax Assessors functions as a semi-independent body.  They are a stage in the checks and balance system which is essential to American Constitutional ideals, i.e. no part of the government, local, state or national, should acquire greater power over another.  In the case of Tax Assessor offices, having semi-independence ensures that elected officials cannot skew taxes to benefit themselves.  The Board of Commissioners does have a legal responsibility to provide the Tax Assessors with the necessary supplies, including vehicles, to complete their job.  FetchYourNews.com also asked who Ms. Doss had consulted about budget independence of the Tax Assessors office and if the information was relayed to the Board of Commissioners.  Mr. Bishop said that he didn’t want to misspeak and requested that we ask Ms. Doss for that information.

Remember that Ms. Doss had told the entire February 23rd meeting, Commissioners and public, that she was looking for clarification during Mr. Johnson’s questions about the level of independence of the Tax Assessors. Also, Mr. Bishop, Chair of the Board of Assessors asked FetchYourNews.com to ask Ms. Doss herself about whom she had contacted so that the information is correct. FetchYourNews.com contacted Ms. Doss twice in person, once through phone and once through email.  At the first contact, Ms. Doss said she had spoken to the Georgia Department of Revenue and others but did not elaborate about who she had spoken to.  At the second encounter no information was given.  The phone call was not returned.  The email, though, was answered with the following.

As to the question of who she looked to for legal advice about the extent of Tax Assessors’ independent authority in purchases, Ms. Doss replied, “The specifics of who I might have spoken with or what research I do is attorney work product and is not subject to open records.”  As to the question of when she contacted the Commissioners with her findings, she stated, “Any legal advice that any attorney gives to his or her client is covered under attorney client-privilege and it would be improper for me to violate the attorney-client privilege.”

FetchYourNews.com also asked for an explanation of the semi-independent status of Board of Assessors in order to accurately represent the relationship between the Board of Assessors and the Board of Commissioners.  Ms. Doss said that the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia has an excellent website documenting the division of powers.  After using search terms such as board of assessors and tax assessors, no clear description of the relationship between the Board of Assessors and Board of Commissioners could be found.  The closest information is from the Vinson Institute’s Compliance Auditing in Georgia Counties and Municipalities, but it only covers the budget separation between the tax appeal administrator and the clerk of the superior court.

So, despite asking Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss and researching sources suggested by her, FetchYourNews.com is unable to accurately report how Ms. Doss obtained her information or to what degree the Board of Assessors has relinquished their semi-autonomous budget authority in order to  diplomatically reduce friction between the Tax Assessors office and the Board of Commissioners.

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