2020 Dawson County sheriff’s race beginning to take shape

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Captain Marcus Sewell

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Two potential challengers for Dawson County Sheriff in 2020 have emerged. Jeff Perry, a veteran parole officer, officially tossed his hat into the ring last week and Capt. Marcus Sewell, Chief of the Investigations Division in Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office, is expected to announce his campaign next week.

Perry ran against Johnson in the 2016 election and finished third in a four-candidate race. He, of course, hopes to do better this time around.

In making his announcement last week, Perry said, “I am running for Sheriff to serve the citizens of Dawson County because there is nothing more important to me than keeping our families safe, and bringing capable leadership to the top law enforcement position in the county.”

Jeff Perry

Sewell has not made an official announcement but there are campaign-style signs appearing on social media that indicate he soon will. He is a veteran law enforcement officer widely known in Dawson County. He is a graduate of Dawson County High School and served as a deputy for longtime Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle.

Johnson has had a troubled first term as sheriff. In his first year he sued the Board of Commissioners in an effort to get more money for his 2018 budget. He lost the lawsuit and alienated county commissioners and other county officials in the process. Most of them have said privately they want to see Johnson defeated.

Commissioners have also been angered by Johnson’s insistence on hiring someone to handle sheriff’s office finances, a service the county could provide at no additional cost to taxpayers.

The new candidates are almost certain to attack Johnson on his wasteful spending. The unsuccessful lawsuit cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Embarrassingly, Johnson learned at the end of that budget year, he had nearly $500,000 remaining that he failed to spend. That money could have been used to give deputies a well-deserved pay raise. Instead, it went back into the county’s general fund.

Johnson has also attracted a great deal of negative publicity for personnel issues within the sheriff’s office. For example, in 2018 three detention officers were arrested – two for domestic violence issues and another for unlawful sexual relationship with a female prisoner. That same year, an entire night patrol of on-duty officers was discovered playing badminton and leaving the county unprotected. And, in May 2019, a computer aided dispatch report showed that one sergeant refused to report to the scene of an accident for more than six hours.

The election is still a year away, but the campaign is right around the corner.

 

 

 

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. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. 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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Sheriff, attorney threaten reporter, demand retraction

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Sheriff Jeff Johnson

Sheriff Jeff Johnson

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — In complete disregard of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and in an effort to silence a news reporter, Sheriff Jeff Johnson and his attorney have demanded retraction of an editorial published by Fetch Your News last month regarding a deputy’s refusal to report to a single-vehicle accident on Nimblewill Gap for more than six hours.

 

On June 18, 2019, Joey Homans wrote: “I have been retained by Sheriff Jeff Johnson and Sgt. Larry Busher as a result of the libelous article you published on June 14, 2019 at dawson.fetchyournews.com. Your effort to camouflage and cover your malicious, hateful and libelous obloquy by posting under the “opinion” designation fails.”

 

Joey Homans

Joey Homans

Homans is the former Dawson County Attorney. The Board of Commissioners declined to renew his contract in 2017. He subsequently sued the Board of Commissioners on behalf of Sheriff Johnson in a failed lawsuit that cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.

He concludes his attack on this reporter by stating: “Your article lacks actual, unvarnished truth and was published solely to damage Sheriff Johnson and Sgt. Busher. Therefore, on their behalf, I hereby demand that your June 14 publication be retracted within five (5) days of the date of this letter, that the retraction be clearly stated as such, that the retraction be published in the same manner that the libelous article was published and that no further publication or dissemination of the false statements set forth within your article occur.”

It has been three weeks since the threat was received and there has been no retraction. There will be no retraction. Not in five days, five weeks, five months or five years. What has failed is Sheriff Johnson’s attempt to ignore the First Amendment and frighten this reporter into writing a retraction.

Fetch Your News will have additional articles that focus on the Nimblewill fiasco, including Johnson’s false claim that the accident did not occur in Dawson County. Gilmer County officials are not pleased that Johnson attempted to scapegoat Gilmer County to cover up his sergeant’s failure to respond.

 

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. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. 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 Commission begins new meeting schedule Thursday

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawsonville Board of Commissioners will begin its new meeting schedule Thursday with a work session set to begin at 4 p.m., followed immediately thereafter by an executive session and then a 6 p.m. voting session.

WORK SESSION

During the work session, commissioners will hear a request from Sheriff Jeff Johnson to retire the Sheriff’s Office K9 Kimbo and transfer ownership to the dog’s handler, Lt. Jessica Kraft. Dr. Katie Ferris of the Chestatee Animal Hospital has recommended Kimbo’s retirement for medical reasons.

Public Works Director David McKee will ask for Board approval to retain an on-call, full-depth reclamation service. An invitation to bid (IFB) was released with a sample job at Hightower Parkway at SR53 to the end of the pavement. The lowest, most responsive bid was submitted by ShepCo Paving, Inc. in the amount of $203,500. The pricing received for this sample project will be set for the life of the contract per job at $6.25 per square yard for 10” cement reclaimed base; $152 a ton for Portland Cement; $6 per square yard for haul-off excess material, if required.

Parks and Recreation Director Matt Payne, will present a proposed agreement with the Rotary Club of Dawson County to provide the county with a venue that would house outdoor pickleball courts, batting cages, and an outdoor basketball area at Rock Creek Park.

Payne will also ask commissioners to approve a Dawson County Employee Night at the county swimming pool on May 17. The Parks and Recreation Department has hired lifeguards and pool attendants for the 2019 summer season. To provide a great time for Dawson County employees and families, plus use the night as a training night for our lifeguards and pool workers.

County Chief Financial Officer Vickie Neikirk will give a financial status report for the first quarter 2019.

VOTING SESSION

During the voting session, commissioners will hold public hearings on an alcohol license for Olive Garden Holdings, LLC and updates to the county’s Land Use Resolution.

 Commissioners are expected to vote on a contract with CT Darnell Construction for design-build services for Fire Station 9 for an amount not to exceed $1,736,271 and approve the transfer of funds in the amount of $736,271 to this project.

 A services agreement with Dawson County Humane Society for Treatment and Housing of Animals will also be up for a vote. This agreement memorializes the county’s funding obligation and the Humane Society’s duty to provide housing and medical care services for impounded dogs and cats. The agreement does not obligate the County in 2019 for any money that has not already been budgeted.

The Board will also consider addendum No. 3 to the FY 2019 Legacy Link Contract for Nutrition Program Services. The addendum includes an additional $5,284 from Nutrition Service Incentive Program funding (NSIP State) to be used by year end.

Commissioners must also decide on increased funding for legal fees in 2019. In December 2018, the Board made the decision to utilize outside firm of Jarrard & Davis for legal services after the retirement of in-house attorney. There was $160,413 approved for the County Attorney budget for 2019. Those funds have already been used to pay for legal fees in 2019.

Because of increased need for legal services, as well as costs for clearing up outstanding issues, the county has exceeded the funding available to pay future invoices. Current amount left in the County Attorney budget for 2019 is $19,284. Estimated costs for remainder of 2019 (April – December) will be at least $250,000.

 

 

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. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. 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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GBI investigates death of Dawson County Detention Center inmate

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Sheriff Jeff Johnson

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is conducting an investigation into the death of an inmate at the Dawson County Detention Center Monday (April 8).

Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson confirmed via email that Joseph Michael Bishop, 57, of Dawsonville was found unresponsive in his cell at approximately 11:.47 a.m. “Deputies and Emergency Medical Personnel provided first aid, however the resuscitation attempt was unsuccessful,” Johnson said.

GBI Office of Public Affairs Director Nelly Miles said an autopsy has been completed and is pending additional tests.

Fetch Your News will have more details when they become 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. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. 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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Former Dawson County jailer is behind bars

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – One day after Fetch Your News published an article alleging that a former Dawson County Sheriff’s Office detention officer carried on a romantic relationship with a female prisoner, Luciano Pablo Betancourt was arrested and charged with violation of his oath of office.

Betancourt, who resigned in lieu of termination on Aug. 14, has been placed in the same Dawson County Detention Center where he once guarded prisoners. He could face up to five years behind bars.

In an exclusive interview with Fetch Your News, April Finnegan, 31, said last week that during her incarceration in the detention center, Betancourt “kissed her, put his hand inside her shirt and asked her to send him nude photos of herself.”

Finnegan, who was serving a three-month sentence on probation violation and drug possession was released on July 3. She said she did not report the incident because she had become attracted to the guard.

“I’m not trying to get him into trouble, even now,” she told Fetch Your News. “Everybody in my dorm could tell. Everybody knew what was going on. One of the girls in my dorm even asked him jokingly, ‘Hey Betancourt can you two get married while she’s incarcerated.’”

Georgia law doesn’t take into account whether sex acts between a prison guard and an inmate are consensual, because guards have inherent authority over prisoners. Congress in 2003 passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which calls for corrections systems to have a zero-tolerance policy on prison rape.

Sheriff Jeff Johnson told the local newspaper Tuesday that Betancourt’s arrest follows an internal affairs investigation. But Finnegan said she was never questioned by anyone from internal affairs.

According to his personnel file, Betancourt received a written reprimand in July 2017 for another policy violation. The policy states: “Employees shall not fraternize with or engage the personal services of any person in custody; shall not become socially or emotionally involved with prisoners; shall not borrow money or any type of property; or shall not lend money or any property to any person in custody.”

The reprimand states, “Officer Betancourt had spent time with 2 females in (cell) E-4 every shift he had worked between the dates of June 29 and July15. Betancourt would stop and spend two minutes talking with the 2 females, had the females out cleaning the showers in their whites (shirt and underwear) and remained in the pod while they were off camera in the shower. Betancourt remained at the table nearest the shower where he had full visual contact with the inmates. Thus far, there has been no allegation made by the inmates and Betancourt expresses he does understand the potential for accusations from these behaviors.”

 

 

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. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. 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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Dawson County Jr. High student charged with making terroristic threats

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Dr. Damon Gibbs

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – An unidentified 15-year-old student at Dawson County Junior High School was taken into custody Friday (Aug. 10) morning, charged with making terroristic threats and one count of transmitting a public alarm.

Dawson County School System Superintendent Dr. Damon Gibbs said via email today the threat was reported Thursday afternoon and the student was immediately removed from the school

Following an investigation by the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office the student was arrested.

Gibbs issued the following statement, “The Dawson County School System takes all threats seriously and, as always, the safety of our students is our top priority. I want to thank Sheriff (Jeff) Johnson and his staff for acting quickly and handling the situation professionally. The school system will deal with the student per the Code of Conduct to ensure the ongoing safety of our student body.”

Fetch Your News will have more information as this story develops.

 

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. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. 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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Dawson County to hold departmental budget hearings next two weeks

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – A process that often goes unnoticed by the public, but which plays a key role in how tax dollars get spent will play out over the next two weeks when Dawson County’s department heads appear before the Board of Commissioners to request funding for their departments.

The hearings begin Monday and will be held Monday through Thursday for the next two weeks in the Dawson County Administration Building starting at 9 a.m.

The process can be tedious and, at times contentious, as department heads defend their requests and commissioners attempt to ensure the county provides the services citizens pay for at a price they can afford. Every dollar is questioned and must be justified to survive the process.

The first to come under Board of Commissioners’ scrutiny Monday will be the Superior and Drug Court, followed at half-hour to 45-minute intervals by Tax Commissioner, Development Authority and Finance.

On Tuesday,  commissioners will hear budget requests from the Public Defender, Elections Superintendent, Extension Service, Probate Judge and Public Works/Transfer Station.

Magistrate Court, Family Connection, Good Shepherd Clinic and Sheriff’s Office will bring their spending plans to commissioners on Wednesday.

The Sheriff’s Office budget is expected to get very close scrutiny. Sheriff Jeff Johnson sued the county last year when commissioners approved a $900,000 increase in the previous year’s budget. But Johnson maintained it wasn’t enough so he went to court.

The sheriff lost the lawsuit and the good will of the commissioners in the process. Commissioners believe the sheriff wastes too much money by not utilizing the county’s Purchasing Department more and by not submitting purchases to a competitive bidding process.

Week one closes out with budget requests from the coroner, facilities department, IT, clerk of court/board of equalization, and county manager/county government.

 

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. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. 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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Commissioners approve 52-acre senior-living campus-style development

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — A major mixed-use, senior-living campus-style development at Hwy. 400 and Castleberry Road moved one step closer to reality Thursday when the Dawson County Board of Commissioners agreed to amend the existing zoning of the 52.42-acre site from Commercial Planned Comprehensive Development.

The request was made by Richmond Honan Development and Acquisitions, LLC. The county Planning Commission recommended approval.

Plans for the development include 130,000 square feet of medical/office space, 31,500 square feet of retail, 141,000 square feet of assisted living space and 70,000 square feet for a 128-room hotel. Stipulations approved by commissioners include a maximum of 200 independent living units, 40 loft dwelling units above the retail space and 60 senior-living duplexes.

County commissioners approved a request by the Sheriff’s Office for two additional school resource officers (SRO) and additional funding for off-duty officers to handle traffic control at the schools for July 1 through Dec. 31.

The board also granted Sheriff Jeff Johnson’s request for a permit to hold a 51-mile motorcycle ride for Relay for Live April 14 from 9 a.m. until noon. The event will begin and end at Dawsonville’s Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.

Following a public hearing, the board voted 4-0 to approve a draft Capital Improvements Element as part of the county’s consideration of an impact fee program.

Under new business, the board also approved:

⦁ A request to upgrade a part-time clerk position in the Magistrate Court to full time;

⦁ An increase in pay for a clerk in the Magistrate Court who has achieved Georgia Information Crime Center Certification;

⦁ An annual salary increase of $5,000 for the county attorney;

⦁ The purchase of emergency medical supplies for Emergency Services;

⦁ Ratification of FY 2018 Homeland Security Grant Program application in the amount of $14,400 with no county match required;

⦁ Writing off old debt for ambulance service deemed uncollectable;

⦁ The appointment of Jo Ann Overstreet Hause to the Tax Assessor Board; and

⦁ The appointment of George Lyons, Bob Speight and Judy Baer to the Tree Preservation Committee. Commissioners took no action on five requests from residents of Gold Creek to be annexed into the city of Dawsonville.

Chairman Billy Thurmond read a proclamation declaring April National Donate Life Month that was adopted unanimously by the board. LifeLink is Georgia’s non-profit organ and tissue recovery organization. More than 5,000 people in Georgia are awaiting a transplant. One donor can save 75 lives. Each day, 22 people die because an organ does not become available. To sign up for organ or tissue donation, visit www.donatelifegeorgia.org.

 

 

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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