“No evidence has been presented to show any violation of code of Judicial Ethics by Judge Weaver. Instead, the evidence appears to show a personal dislike of the Judge.”
Last week the Georgia Judicial Qualification Commission dismissed the complaint against Appalachian Judicial District Chief Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver.
“The complaint of Thomason, Stookey, Doss and the GCSPJ are without any basis in law or fact. The complaints are nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to enlist the JQC in their fixation upon harming Judge Weaver. The JQC will have no further part in it. All complaints are hereby dismissed.”
The complaint was submitted to the JQC by Mark Thomason, former publisher of the Fannin Focus, his attorney Russell Stookey and Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss.
In the JQC conclusions they addressed the Georgia Chapters Society of Professionals Journalist complaint that Weaver mounted an attack on freedom of the press.
“Calling oneself a “journalist” and “reporter” should not be a cover for pursuing personal vendettas.”
Stookey and Thomason with the assistance of Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss raised a complaint to the FBI to initiate an investigation.
JQC, “The FBI investigated the allegations raised by Stookey and Thomason but found no wrongdoing.”
On June 15th Atlanta Attorney Gerry Weber, representing Russell Stookey and Mark Thomason, sent a demand letter and Ante Litem Notice to Judge Brenda Weaver, District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee and Pickens County Board of Commissioners.
Part of Weber’s summary of claim, “This case has already garnered national attention. It involves breathtaking abuse of power by a Judge, prosecutor, and law enforcement who manipulated the criminal justice system to wage a personal vendetta against a local newspaper publisher and his attorney.”
Weber’s claim for damages conclusion, “Further accounting for damages stemming from the emotional distress in false arrest and malicious prosecution and for the punitive damages due to egregiousness of the actions leading to the arrests, Stookey’s and Thomason’s damages exceed 1,000,000.”
How far will this case go considering the FBI and JQC have closed their investigation both dismissing the possible charge of wrongdoing.
Southern A&E’s CEO and the project’s civil engineer explain the building site to Fannin County Board of Education.
At their Oct. 13th meeting, Fannin County School Board spent a good deal of time repudiating rumors set forth by Fannin Focus that the new site for the Agriculture and Environmental Sciences facility is unfit for construction due to flood plain location, storm water runoff and bus and car traffic entrance. The facility will be at its property at 762 Ada Street. Buses and traffic will enter Windy Ridge Road through a newly constructed road that will be to the side of Fire Station #1 that the county is building on Windy Ridge Rd. Buses will not enter through the property that directly faces Ada Street. Dry Creek runs through the Ada Street property, and, supposedly, the creek is what caused Fannin Focus to question the suitability of the site.
On Oct. 13th Fannin Focus published the article “New Building Could Become Noah’s Ark”. The article was written by Fannin Focus’ publisher, Mark Thomason. Within the article were several glaring omissions and inaccurate information.
Fannin Focus said it contacted Carroll Daniel Construction for blueprints for the building and the company replied that “none exists currently”. The company that holds the actual blueprints for the building as well as civil engineering analyses for the site is Southern A&E. According to the article, Fannin Focus did not contact Southern A&E prior to printing the article. Southern A&E has built for FCSS before, most notably, FCHS Performing Arts Center.
Southern A&E’s CEO and the Southern A&E civil engineer responsible for the site were present at the Board meeting and brought with them three 2 feet by 4 feet placards which showed a site survey, renderings of building façade choices and a blue-print for the building. The civil engineer confirmed that once grading for the building is finished, it will be 12’ to 14’ feet above Dry Creek, which puts it well above the 100-year flood plain.
Fannin Focus also reported that the “drill cove testing holes on the building site… to be filled with water afterwards.” The newspaper neglected to contact the Fannin County School System to see if it is aware of the problem and how it will account for seepage from springs underneath the building site. Superintendent Mark Henson, Director of FCSS Facility and Maintenance Danny Shinpaugh and Southern A&E addressed seepage during the meeting. French drains will be installed under the building and lead to a series of retention basins rather than directly into Dry Creek. FCSS had to do this as well for the FCHS gymnasium. Southern A&E provided the plans for and Shinpaugh assisted with overseeing the construction. All agreed that the French drains had more than adequately directed seepage out from under the building.
A series of three retention basins at the low side of the facility’s parking lot will also collect storm water runoff from the facility and its parking lot. The basins will run the entire length of FCSS’ property along Dry Creek. Gravel, plants and water movement between the basins will filter out silt and parking lot contaminants such as oil and gas before the water reaches Dry Creek. Shinpaugh stated that the retention basins will better regulate water flow into Dry Creek than does current natural regulators like vegetation along Dry Creek.
Fannin Focus alluded to the Fannin County Board of Commissioners having concerns about the flood potential of the property and that they may use this as an opportunity to deny or delay a construction permit. Missing from this statement is the information that the Commissioners have already given tacit approval to building on the site. In early summer, the Commissioners voted to allow FCSS to build its entry road to the facility using property at the edge of Fire Station #1. This was before FCSS formally announced that it was moving the facility from its previous site at the Farmer’s Market on East First Street in Blue Ridge to its Ada Street property (see related article published on Sept. 13th). FCSS’ primary reason for having entrance next to the Fires Station is so school busses bringing students will not need to cross the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway’s railroad tracks.
The most glaring omission in Fannin Focus’ article is no reference to the amount of regulatory hoops a public building, especially a school, must go through before being built. These standards are much higher than residential or commercial properties. FCSS would not receive a green light for construction from Georgia’s Department of Education nor FCSS liability insurance company if questions about flooding or student safety were of concern. “We don’t do this willy-nilly or fly-by-night,” stated Henson.
Feed Fannin, which is directly on Ada Street, rents its property from the Board of Education. Neither Feed Fannin’s community garden nor its activities will be negatively affected by the new facility. No traffic will pass through Feed Fannin’s property portion in route to the new facility. In fact, both FCSS students and Feed Fannin will be enhanced by sharing the same property. Students will use Feed Fannin’s area for agriculture and horticulture test plots and directly share information with one another.
Even the presence of Dry Creek will benefit students using the Agriculture and Environmental Science Facility. School Board member Terry Bramlett pointed this out at the meeting. Dry Creek will give students opportunities for water quality and ecosystem research that would not be there without a creek, a large amount of unbuilt land and Feed Fannin’s garden.
Henson and Shinpaugh feel that opposition to the new facility is being led by owners of Dry Creek downstream properties and does not represent the opinion of a large group of Fannin residents. They also maintain that some neighbors are just upset because they will no longer be able to run their livestock on the BOE property. Up to now, the BOE has let them use the property free of charge.
The Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Facility had to move from its original building site at the Farmer’s Market to the Ada Street property because the Farmer’s Market was one acre shy of state requirements for the size of property needed for the building and its accompanying parking lot.
By Elaine Owen, Editor of Fannin Sentinel
Facing at least one formal ethics complaint, the judge who chairs the state Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) resigned from the agency Friday.
Brenda Weaver, chief Superior Court judge of the Appalachian Circuit and chairwoman of the JQC since April, announced her resignation in an email to her six fellow commission members late Friday. Weaver gave no reason for her resignation but said, “The work of this commission is extremely important and nothing and no one should distract from its duties and responsibilities.”
Weaver said she intends to use the time she had spent working on judicial ethics matters “to expand and improve services” in her circuit’s accountability courts and veterans court.
An ethics complaint had been filed against Weaver last month by the Society of Professional Journalists in connection with a civil subpoena and a public records request drawn up to obtain bank records associated with Weaver’s court operating account, which is funded by taxpayer dollars from the three counties in her judicial circuit.
Fannin Focus Publisher Mark Thomason and his attorney Russell Stookey were arrested late Friday afternoon and transported to the Pickens County Jail. Earlier in the day a Pickens County Grand Jury indicted Thomason on 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’s booking report is below, Stookey’s booking report will be published when available.