Secrecy surrounds “mishandled funds” complaint

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City Manager Bob Bolz

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – One month after the City of Dawsonville filed a complaint with the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office regarding “mishandled funds” during former Mayor James Grogan’s administration, city officials have kept the details of that complaint a closely guarded secret.

Taxpayers have been kept in the dark regarding how their money was mishandled and how much money is involved.

City Manager Bob Bolz responded to Fetch Your News open records request (ORR) last week in an email that stated: “Because of certain information pertinent to the investigation revealed in the (complaint), that information was deemed confidential by our attorneys.”

The City’s failure to disclose details of the complaint has raised serious questions about the validity of the complaint and especially its timing, coming just weeks before the special election that will decide if Grogan is to regain his seat or be replaced for the next four years by interim Mayor Mike Eason. Advanced voting has begun and Election Day is March 20.

Former Mayor James Grogan

City Council members Angie Smith, Caleb Phillips and Jason Power voted last May to remove Grogan as mayor for alleged violations of the city code and policies. The decision was not popular with voters and may have cost Smith her seat on the Council. She was voted out of office in November.

Grogan has maintained from the beginning that he has done nothing wrong and the complaint of “mishandled funds” is politically motivated.

“It is a politically-motivated witch hunt,” Grogan said. “But I believe the voters will see it for what it is.”

In fact, Grogan doubts there is any investigation. “I believe they filed the complaint just to hurt me. It’s been almost a month since the complaint was filed and nobody from the sheriff’s office has questioned me.”

In making the motion to refer the issue to law enforcement, new City Councilman Stephen Tolson said, “I think in the interest of full transparency it would be a good idea to go ahead and hand over all those documents and any related documents of the prior investigations conducted.”

Yet one month later, the documents have not been turned over to the media or made available to the public. Election Day is Tuesday, March 20 and the voters will finally have a chance to decide who will lead the city forward.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

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City officials report missing funds to sheriff

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Interim Mayor Mike Eason

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawsonville city officials have reported the disappearance of an undisclosed amount of money collected by the city between 2014 and 2017 to the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.

Interim Mayor Mike Eason revealed the missing funds following a Dawsonville City Council executive session Monday evening but declined to say how much money is missing. He did indicate that the money disappeared over a three-year period of time and that he would consider the amount to be “significant.”

“We’re not going to get into a lot of details,” Eason said. “Our new finance administrator (Hayden Wiggins) discovered the money was missing during a routine examination.”

Fetch Your News will have more information when it becomes available.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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Happy Food Mart robbed at gunpoint Tuesday

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County authorities are searching for a suspect who reportedly robbed the Happy Food Mart on Dawson Forest Road at gunpoint Tuesday at approximately 6:34 p.m.

According to the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office incident report, the suspect is described as a white male, approximately 5 feet 9 inches tall, wearing a heavy winter jacket, blue jeans, a red ballcap and brown boots. He is reported to have been armed with a handgun.

If anyone has any information regarding this report, you are asked to please contact the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office at 706-344-3636.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

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BREAKING NEWS: Shooting in Dawson County

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Sheriff Jeff Johnson

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson said authorities are investigating a shooting that took place this afternoon at the Chevron station at Georgia 400 and Dawsonville Highway.

Johnson said one of his deputies was giving a man a courtesy ride to the store and had planned to give the man some money to buy a few things when the man started striking the deputy in the face.

According to Johnson, a woman who witnessed the incident pulled a handgun and shot the suspect who then fled across state Route 400 to the McDonald’s restaurant where he assaulted a woman.

Johnson said the deputy, the woman who was assaulted and the suspect have been taken to an area hospital.

No names have been released at this time.

Fetch Your News will have more details as they become available

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Cumming Woman Charged in Hit-And-Run Death

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Sherri Lynn Jennings

CUMMING, Ga. – A Cumming woman has been arrested in connection with the hit-and-run death of 80-year-old Bobby Eugene Wells of Dawsonville Oct. 9 on Dawson Forest Road in Dawson County.

The Georgia State Patrol Post 37, Georgia State Patrol Specialized Collision  Reconstruction Team, along with investigators from the Dawson County District Attorney’s Office, Dawson County Sheriff’s Office,  Dawson County Communications, and Lanier Technical College Police, arrested Sherri Lynn  Jennings, 44, of Cumming Wednesday.

Jennings is charged with homicide by vehicle, first degree hit and run, fnailure to report an accident and failure to maintain lane in connection with the incident.

The vehicle in the suspected hit and run was located by investigators at an address inside Forsyth County on Wednesday.

Further Details will be forthcoming at a later date as the incident is still under investigation.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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County, Sheriff Spar Over Budget Request

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Chairman Billy Thurmond

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson and the Board of Commissioners butted heads over the sheriff’s budget request during a called meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Johnson says he cannot provide the services required of his office on the $7.3 million budget commissioners have proposed. He requested $8.1 million. But commissioners say Johnson’s predecessor, Billy Carlisle who retired last year, provided those same services on a budget of only $6.8 million. They say the half million dollar increase they have proposed plus a significant pay raise for all county employees, including the sheriff’s office and another $300,000 for capital expenditures, is all the taxpayers can afford.

Sheriff Jeff Johnson

Commissioners will consider the arguments made by Johnson and his attorney, Joey Homans, until Thursday when the final budget is set to be adopted.

In initiating the discussion, Chairman Billy Thurmond said, “It is our goal to help you meet your needs. By no means do we want to run your department. We have no idea how to run your department. That takes money and we’re looking for every means and every way to generate the revenue.”

Commissioner Chris Gaines echoed that sentiment, saying, “I want the very best Sheriff’s Office this county can afford.”

Commissioner Chris Gaines

It is worth noting that the sheriff’s budgeting process is unlike any in state government. Commissioners control the budget, but sheriffs are constitutional officers, elected by the citizens. Their budgets cannot be cut unless the sheriff agrees. If push comes to shove, the sheriff can take his appeal through the court system.

Johnson may have been setting the stage for that when he said, “If you look at our budget, just the line items, take away the salaries and benefits, our budget was reduced. Our overall budget was reduced. That’s where we’re at. We come into this process short on staff, short on uniforms, short on equipment and short on a long laundry list of items.”

Both sides would like to avoid litigation because taxpayers would be forced to pay the legal fees of both the commission and the sheriff’s office, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Commissioner Sharon Fausett

Commissioner Sharon Fausett opened the door to future opportunities for the sheriff’s office to achieve some increases, saying, “This budget isn’t written in stone but we have to start somewhere.” She indicated that she might be open to future adjustments in the budget if revenue rose above expectations and the need was warranted.

“But I don’t want to get below the 15 percent contingency fund,” she said. “I don’t want to raise property taxes and I don’t want to borrow money. I want us to be fiscally responsible.”

Commissioners questioned why the sheriff chose to make purchases outside the county’s purchasing department where discounts and other efficiencies are available. They say that is a duplication of services that costs taxpayers more money.

Johnson explained that for big ticket purchases, in excess of $100,000, he does use the purchasing department but added, “I’m accountable to the voters of Dawson County for how I spend my money and why I choose certain contractors. But often times, the lowest bid will get you just that, the lowest quality. He cited two examples of contractors the county selected in the past that he felt failed to do live up to their contract.

Commissioners have argued in the past that the Sheriff’s Offices in Lumpkin and White counties serve a larger population but have a smaller budget than what is being proposed for Dawson, a county with a population of about 23,000.

For example, the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office budget is $6.6 million and its population is 29,966 while the budget for White County Sheriff Neal Walden is only $5.4 million for a population of 28,000.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Drowning Victim Was a Dawson County Man

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Authorities have identified the man who drowned at War Hill Park Tuesday as David Howser, 55, of 711 River Valley Road in Dawsonville.

David Manke, a friend of the victim, told Forsyth County Deputy C.A. Miller that Howser was attempting to swim back to shore when he went under water and never resurfaced. Manke said he swam out to Howser, pulled him back to shore and attempted CPR before calling 9-1-1.

Dawson County EMS was first to arrive on the scene. Paramedics attempted CPR for approximately 30 minutes but were unable to revive the man.

The body was transported to the Forsyth County Coroner.

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Area Businesses Reopen after Bomb Threat

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – A bomb threat called in by phone to the Sonic Drive In on Dawsonville Highway (Hwy. 53 East) sent employees and customers scrambling and Dawson County Emergency Services personnel into action Friday afternoon.

Hwy. 53 between Ga. 400 and Dawson Forest Road was closed for two hours while authorities investigated the threat. The Dawson County Sheriff’s Office turned vehicles around at the light near the old Kroger shopping center.

Several other businesses near the restaurant were also closed from about 3:50 p.m. until about 5:50 p.m. when the restaurant was cleared.

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

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