Citizens defend Tax Assessors

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – There was no shortage of comments as citizens filled the public commentary portion at the Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting to express their outrage over the recent handling of Chief Tax assessor Dawn Cochran.

After reading about the exchange between county commissioners and Cochran in local media, citizens of Fannin County spoke in defense of the Tax Assessors department.

Frank Moore of the Aska Road area was first to speak. Moore, an attorney, works on property tax appeals and has firsthand experience dealing with the Tax Assessors department and Cochran herself: “That is a very professional office.”

Appalled by the questioning of Cochran’s education by Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton, Moore expressed his opinion, “Whoever was asking that question makes me wonder where’s your MBA? Where’s their high degree of education that qualifies them to do anything?”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Tax Assessors, Chief Appraiser, Dawn Cochran, GMASS, Georgia Mass Apprassial Solutions and Services, Public Commentary, Education, Frank Moore, Lane Bishop, Sonia Smith, Sandra Daugherty, Ralph Garner, Marcella Olsteen

Fannin County citizen Frank Moore spoke of his outrage over the recent handling of Chief Appraiser Dawn Cochran.

Moore also expressed concerns over recent Board of Assessors (BOA) appointment Angelina Powell.

“And who’s the person that would actually put Angelina Powell on the Board of Assessors instead of that man right there?” Moore asked motioning to former BOA Chairman Lane Bishop.

At this point Helton put a stop to Moore’s questioning stating that Moore’s actions were boarding a personal attack, “We’re not here to criticize citizens like that. That’s out of line, so let’s move forward. Criticize me if you wish.”

“If anything I’m attacking the board for making that decision,” Moore replied to Helton, “I don’t know who made that decision, but it was a foolish decision.”

Others who spoke were just as angered as Moore over the questioning of Cochran’s education.

A former board member of the BOA, Sonia Smith, asked, “It’s not that you need an education to ask a question is it?” adding, “I believe her questions were educated. She wanted an answer to her question.”

Smith also stated that the commissioners’ behavior toward an employee could be very discouraging for other personnel who might now be intimidated to ask a question.

Sandra Daugherty of Sugarcreek agreed with Smith’s perceptions of the BOC possibly making it difficult for county employees to come to them with questions.

“To be clear everyone, I’m addressing you, Mr. Helton, and you, Mr. Johnson (Post 1 Commissioner), both as a human being and as a public official, you should both be ashamed of yourselves. Not only do you owe Dawn Cochran an apology, but you owe everyone sitting here that night an apology.”

Former BOA Chairman Lane Bishop was present to defend Cochran having worked with her for several years: “Dawn Cochran doesn’t have a formal degree as you so crudely pointed out, but she does have a PhD. It’s in honesty.”

Bishop accused the BOC of having a vendetta against the Tax Assessors department. Speaking directly to Chairman Helton, Lane stated, “You’re real vendetta against the Tax Assessors office is because you can’t control it.”

Lane elaborated further, “Also the fact, the new board three years ago fired Steve Stanley, your’s (Helton) and Larry Joe Sosebee’s friend. The good ol’ boy syndrome lives in Fannin County.”

“Maybe it’s time for the voters of Fannin County to consider a recall petition on you,” Bishop concluded his time, “a class action lawsuit and call the department of revenue on all three of our commissioners.”

Blue Ridge resident Ralph Garner reasoned, “Why tarnish the legacy of good that you (BOC) are doing with ugly behavior like that? A prolonged repetitious rant is out of order most any time.”

Marcella O’Steen of Epworth approached the matter on a more personal level stating that Dawn is someone’s mother, daughter and wife. O’Steen was unable to hold back anger as she stated of the situation: “If I were her (Cochran) husband, I would kick your a**!”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Tax Assessors, Chief Appraiser, Dawn Cochran, GMASS, Georgia Mass Apprassial Solutions and Services, Public Commentary, Education, Frank Moore, Lane Bishop, Sonia Smith, Sandra Daugherty, Ralph Garner, Marcella Olsteen

Former BOA Chairman Lane Bishop accused commissioners of still using the “good ol’ boy” system.

After agreeing to discontinue the profanity, O’Steen was allowed to continue speaking. Unlike many of the other speakers who were focused solely on Helton and Fannin County Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson, O’Steen also accused Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee of negative behavior in the meeting.

Sosebee who had previously complimented the Tax Assessors department during the June 12 meeting failed to take action making him just as guilty according to O’Steen: “Out of three men up here not one of you came to her defense.”

While people certainly expressed their outrage over the perceived treatment of Cochran, many were also displeased with the option that was presented of outsourcing some of the of the workload of the Tax Assessors office.

It was proposed at the June 12 BOC meeting to look into a contract with Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions & Services (GMASS). In this contract, GMASS offers to appraise a third of the counties parcels each year for three years. This would keep the county in compliance with Georgia state standards.

The GMASS contract would cost taxpayers a total of $784,000 for three years of service. Chairman Helton pointed out that Fannin County’s total yearly budget for the Tax Assessors department is far more than surrounding counties, and this contract could be a way to alleviate some of the financial burden on the taxpayers of the county.

Helton clarified that he was not advocating to completely replace the tax assessors department: “You always need to have some local involvement and people there.”

“What they’re (tax assessors) not telling everyone, is they already are using this company(GMASS),” Johnson said of the proposed contract.

Chief Assessor Dawn Cochran did confirm that she had planned on asking for help in 2019 with approximately 13,000 parcels.

“No one voted to do it,” Johnson said explaining the proposed contract,”I’m all about saving the taxpayers money, but we’ve got a lot of research to do.”

“I have not had to raise the mileage. I didn’t get elected to look at the tax assessors. I got elected to save taxpayers money,” Johnson concluded his feeling about the public commentary.

Helton expressed a similar view to Johnson: “Fannin County taxpayers are contributing almost $1 million a year to fund our Tax assessors office. This is the highest budget in 10 Northeast Georgia counties, including Cherokee, NC. I think the citizens have a right to expect their Chairman to ask tough questions instead of worrying about my bedside manner.”

 

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

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Supreme Court of Georgia Denies Jane Whaley’s Request

Election, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After a long fought battle to defend her residency and continue to run for Blue Ridge City Council Post One, Jane Whaley received news that her appeal filed with the Supreme Court of Georgia has been denied.FetchYourNews, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Election, City Council, Jane Whaley

In a hearing held Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, Whaley, along with lawyer Frank Moore, defended her residency within the city of Blue Ridge. Ultimately, Election Supervisor Barbie Gerald decided Whaley did not meet qualifications to run for City Council.

In an official letter, Gerald states:

As noted previously, Section 2.10(b) of the City Charter requires that in order for a person to be eligible to serve as a Councilmember upon the City Council of the City of Blue Ridge, the person must have been a resident of the City for 12 months immediately preceding the election of the Councilmember. Under Mrs. Whaley’s own testimony, she did not reside within the city for 12 month period, and therefore does not meet this qualification requirement to be a candidate of the Post One seat upon the Blue Ridge City Council in the 2017 General Election to be held on Nov. 7, 2017.

Whaley appealed Gerald’s decision on Oct. 13. Judge Richard Winegarden resided over the four-hour hearing.

Winegarden upheld the decision made by Gerald regarding Whaley’s candidacy. He found “that the determining of the Election Superintendent should be affirmed.”

Moore, Whaley’s attorney, filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Georgia and asked for a stay of the election.

The Supreme Court of Georgia sent notification today that all Justices concurred and a discretionary review along with the stay of the election is denied.

Addressing the decision, Moore stated, “Needless to say, we are very disappointed.”

 

 

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

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Whaley plans to Appeal to Georgia Supreme Court

Election, News, Politics

BLUE RIDGE, GA – Judge Winegarden denied the first appeal on behalf of Jane Whaley and the decision to disqualify her as candidate for Blue Ridge City Council Post One.

On Friday, October, 13, 2017, an appeal hearing was held at the Fannin County Courthouse. The case was heard by Judge Richard Winegarden due to the recusal of the Superior Court Judges who serve in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit which includes Fannin County Superior Court.

City Council Post One Candidate Jane Whaley was found ineligible to run after a hearing questioning her residence was held on Monday, September 25, 2017.

Election Superintendent Barbie Gerald was tasked with this initial decision, and decided to disqualify Whaley based on evidence presented. Gerald stated in a letter explaining the decision, “Under Mrs. Whaley’s own testimony, she did not reside within the city for the 12 month period.”

Whaley publicly stated shortly after the decision, “I believe I am a legitimate candidate, and I am going to appeal this decision.”

Whaley’s attorney Frank Moore filed an appeal on the decision to disqualify Whaley reciting that Georgia is a domicile state, and under that definition intent to dwell qualifies as residency.

The hearing on October 13, began at 5:00 P.M. and lasted until 9:00 P.M. Judge Winegarden heard arguments from both sides, Moore representing on Whaley’s behalf and City Attorney David Syfan representing the decision made by Gerald.

After hearing the evidence presented, Winegarden denied the appeal. He found “that the determining of the Election Superintendent should be affirmed.”

Moore requested a stay on Winegarden’s decision at that time. This would allow Whaley’s name to continue to be on November 7, 2017, election ballots, and give time for the Georgia Supreme Court to hear the case.

Winegarden did not grant this request, but Moore is hopeful that the Georgia Supreme Court will issue a stay if granted a hearing on the appeal.

Moore is preparing a request for an appeal of the decision to the Georgia Supreme Court. He expects to have this request entered by Tuesday or Wednesday, October 17th / 18th.

Campaign signs supporting the candidacy of Jane Whaley have recently been removed from the City of Blue Ridge. Moore also sent a request that these signs be put back up while Whaley continues her appeal process.

VIDEO: Is it Possible a High Rolling Gambler is Running in Blue Ridge?

Community, FYNTV, GMFTO, Politics

How important is it to know how our candidates live their lives outside of politics?

Paraphrased from GMFTO on FYNTV:

Would you want a City Council Member that was a high roller?

Would you vote for a candidate that REGULARLY gambled hundreds of thousands of dollars?

I don’t know yet, but I understand it is possible that a candidate is a casino regular, maybe not just a regular, but possibly a high roller?

The source can’t be revealed, and it isn’t 100% verified, but this is a source that would KNOW!

 

Author

Major Development in Blue Ridge Council Qualifications

Election
Blue Ridge

BKP reacts to the latest breaking news on the selectivity of the investigations regarding residency requirements in Blue Ridge. To read our official report on this breaking story click here.

Paraphrased Transcript:

There is a letter to Barbie Gerald from Frank Moore, who represents Cindy Trimble. The letter suggests that Mr. C David Stuart may not be qualified to run for BR City Council, his place of residence is not the commercial body shop he owns. Also mentioned in the letter, N Brendan Doyle, owner of The Boro Pub. Doyle stated under oath that his residence is 150 W Main St., which is the Boro Pub.

Moore attached pictures of the properties and tax records of the zoning. There is only a certain amount of time to challenge it. However, recent precedent suggests Barbie Gerald must investigate.

Obviously there was some picking and choosing going on. Who talked these people into running? Maybe it was Johnny Searcy or Angie Arp? After all, Angie Arp does own the land surrounding The Boro. She was seen on multiple occasions going in and out of The Boro. Maybe she was the one who convinced him to run?

It seems to me that one candidate stood out. One candidate that didn’t fit the mold that Angie Arp, Barbie Gerald, and others wanted.

But there is a proof, for a fact, that people were ordered to sit outside Jane Whaley’s apartment to take pictures all day. To see if there are lights on at night. To see if there are people in and out during the day.

A judge will be the one to decide whether or not Jane Whaley can run for office. Yet, there are still many questions to ask of Ms. Gerald.

Why wasn’t the residence of Brendan Doyle investigated?
Why wasn’t the residence of David Stuart investigated?
Who put pressure on Barbie Gerald to investigate Jane Whaley?

Only time will tell…

Author

More Candidates Questioned About Residency

Election, News

BLUE RIDGE, GA – A recent decision by Election Superintendent Barbie Gerald resulted in the disqualification of City Council Post One Candidate Jane Whaley. Now two other candidates, David Stuart and Brendan Doyle, are being challenged as to the legitimacy of their residency.

Whaley, along with several of her supporters, attended an all day hearing on September 25, 2017 to argue her residential status.

City Attorney David Syfan argued that Whaley’s lack of physical presence at her apartment on East Main Street was case enough to dismiss her from the election.

Whaley’s attorney Frank Moore stated that her intent to move in was enough to claim residence, and that she had only been prevented from the physical move by circumstances beyond her control.

Gerald ultimately came to the decision that Whaley did not meet the qualifications to continue to run for City Council Post One. In a letter sent to Whaley, Gerald stated, “since I have determined that Mrs. Whaley is not qualified, in my position as Election Superintendent, I shall withhold Mrs. Whaley’s name as a candidate upon the ballot, or strike her name from the ballot if the ballots have been printed.”

It went on, “If there is insufficient time to strike her name or reprint the ballots, I will post a prominent notice at the City polling place advising voters that Mrs. Whaley is disqualified as a candidate and all votes cast for her shall be void and shall not be counted.”

Property of Stuart that is zoned C-2.

In response, Whaley stated, “I believe I am a legitimate candidate, and I am going to appeal this decision.”

Frank Moore sent a letter late last week asking for a stay of Gerald’s decision. He stated that Whaley’s name should be included on the ballot until a decision has been reached in her appeal.

The letter states that Whaley “will be permanently and irreparably harmed if the Court does not grant a stay of the Determination because she will be unable, prior to the printing of the ballots and the conducting of the election to challenge successfully the erroneous Determination.”

Property of Doyle zoned for urban dwelling living space.

Moore also sent a formal letter, with regards to a complaint filed by another city resident, to Election Superintendent Barbie Gerald requesting the investigation of residency for two additional candidates in the Blue Ridge City Council Election.

The letter brings into question the residency of City Council Post Five Candidate David Stuart. Stuart listed his address as a property that is currently zoned C-2. Properties that are commercially zoned C-2, can only have residential units above the first floor.

It also brings into question the residency of Candidate for Blue Ridge City Mayor Brendan Doyle. The complaint against Doyle states that an urban dwelling living space within the Central Business District must average 1,000 square feet in area per building.

The letter states that both of these candidates fail to meet these standards.

It asks for an investigation and if the claims are proven to be correct asks for the removal of both candidates from the ballot for the 2017  Election for City Council.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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