Sheriff candidates presented their credentials at GOP meeting

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The 2020 campaign season got off to an early start Monday when the Dawson County Republican Party invited the three candidates for sheriff – Sheriff Jeff Johnson, Jeff Perry and Marcus Sewell to introduce themselves to a packed house at The Bowen Art Center.

Former County Commission Chairman Mike Berg served as event moderator and each candidate was given 10 minutes to speak and a few minutes more to answer questions.

Johnson, who has 26 years’ law enforcement experience, took the lectern first.

His education includes graduating from Dawson County High School, University of North Georgia, Northeast Georgia Police Academy, Sheriff’s Select Academy, National Sheriffs Institute and 3,400 hours in specialized training.

Johnson encouraged voters to consider “true experience” when it comes to electing a sheriff. “The function of the sheriff’s office includes jail operations, court services, 911, patrol and investigations,” he said. “I’m thankful that throughout those 26 years of experience, I have been able to work in and serve each of those components.”

Johnson said one thing that has been a success during his first term is the focus on community programs. “I’m thankful to our citizens who have taken part in those. I still get to teach and take part in those and to empower our community.”

Johnson said the sheriff’s office has overcome internal conflicts and a mass exodus during his first year in office. “When I say mass exodus, we had over 20 employees leave and for a sheriff’s office of 115 employees at the time, that is pretty substantial. Still, we’ve been able to forge ahead and accomplish a lot of good things. One of those being we are a state certified law enforcement agency.”

Johnson also pointed to the state certified medical department within the jail system as an accomplishment. “Should something happen, it should serve to minimize any liability we have. We’ve also been able to better equip our officers with standard weapons, standard gear. We’re proud of our man and women and what they have been able to accomplish.”

Jeff Perry, who is making his second campaign for sheriff, has 30 years’ experience working for the state’s Pardons and Parole Board. After he retired, he started the Criminal Justice program at Dawson County and now teaches criminal justice at the school.  His comments focused on managing the budget and retention of deputies.

“It’s easy to manage a budget when you have the money,” he said. Perry said he managed a budget during the recession when his department could not only get additional money, but the governor took some money away.

“You have to adopt,” he said. “People have to take on additional roles. It takes strategic planning. The Dawson County Sheriff has to have a strategic plan that focuses on retention and recruitment of deputies and looks at future growth.”

Perry is a graduate of the certified public management course at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vincent Institute. “They reminded us that people don’t leave jobs because of money. They leave jobs because of bad leaders.  We have to identify those who are going to become capable leaders and promote those from within instead of promoting bad people who perform bad behavior.”

Perry also said if he is elected he would start an educational allotment that rewards employees five percent for a four-year college degree and an additional five percent for graduate degree.  We have to award those people who go above and beyond.”

Sewell started his law enforcement career in 2004, working at the state prison in Alto where he was promoted up to the rank of Sergeant. In 2009, he went to work in the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office. From then on his career took off.

“In 2011, I became jail commander then I was over Special Services which does narcotics, canine, victims’ advocate and school resource officers. For the last four years, I’ve been Chief Investigator over Criminal Investigations.”

“Over the last eight years as Commander, I’ve managed the jail budget which is half the sheriff’s office,” he said. “You have to learn to control your budget. Every penny, nickel, dime and dime we spend is your tax money.”

“We’ve got to realize we can’t sue the county” he said in reference to Johnson’s failed lawsuit against the Board of Commissioners that cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

“We can’t increase the budget every year,” he said. “We’ve got to work and compromise. In the last two and a half years, the budget went up 18.5 percent.

“In Lumpkin County we have 33,000 residents our budget is $5.8 million. In Dawson County the budget is $9 million with 24,500 people.” With that kind of budget, he said, there is no reason the county can’t put 8 or 9 people on patrol instead of five.

 

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 Sheriff Jeff Johnson accuses FetchYourNews.com of misleading the community

News, Politics

Dawson County Georgia Sheriff Jeff Johnson accused Fetch Your News of “implying that the requested additional yearly funds could have been used to fund a CAD System” on his Facebook Social Media page. He also explained in his post on social media to “Consider the Source”. We are interviewing the reporter who covered the story in this segment on FYNtv.com.

 

 

To read the full stories covered by our reporter, click the links below:

Headley: Sheriff’s budget increase close to $1 million

Sheriff’s lawsuit against the county heads to court

Sheriff vs. Dawson County heads to courtroom

What next in Sheriff Johnson vs. Dawson County?

Sheriff, county fail to reach budget agreement

Judge rules against sheriff’s lawsuit against county

Sheriff had nearly $400,000 left in his 2017 budget when he sued the Board of Commissioners

 

Dawson County High student charged with terroristic threats

Business

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. –A female student at Dawson County High School was arrested Thursday after she allegedly threatened that she and her boyfriend would “shoot up the school.”

Michelle Lawson, 17, is charged with threatening a crime of violence with the purpose of terrorizing students at the school. She is being held without bond while awaiting her first appearance in court.

There has been an outbreak of threats against schools and students in north Georgia following the tragedy at a Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 people were shot and killed.

On Feb. 16, Hall County deputies removed an unidentified male student from a school bus at gunpoint after someone shouted “he has a gun.” No gun was found, but the student was charged with disorderly conduct. On Feb. 19, a student at Habersham Ninth Grade Academy was arrested for allegedly making terroristic threats. And, on the same day the Dawson County student was arrested, two unidentified male students were charged with making terroristic threats against West Forsyth High School (WFHS).

However, while threats of violence have increased, so has the vigilance of students, parents and school officials.

A fellow student at Dawsonville High reportedly overheard Lawson’s threats and reported it to her parents who notified the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office. The West Forsyth students were reported by the parent of a WFHS student who saw ominous statements on social media and reported them. In the case of the Chestatee High School student in Hall County, it was an alert bus driver who reported a potential threat.

Dawson County Schools Superintendent Damon Gibbs addressed the arrest in an email Thursday evening.

“As always, the safety of our students is our top priority,” Gibbs said. “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 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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Sheriff, county fail to reach budget agreement

News

Chairman Billy Thurmond

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson and county officials failed to reach an agreement on the sheriff’s 2018 budget during a 90-minute meeting Tuesday which places the decision back in the hands of Senior Superior Court Judge Fred A. Bishop Jr.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the Board of Commissioners, claiming the budget they approved was not sufficient for him to perform his sworn duties.

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said he, Commissioner Chris Gaines and County Attorney Lynn Frey met with Johnson and his attorney Joey Homans Tuesday.

“We had a good discussion but did not reach an agreement,” Thurmond said. “It was cordial on both sides. We explained we would continue to look at the revenue and would need time to see what the final numbers are from the property tax evaluation.”

Sheriff Jeff Johnson

Thurmond said he would update the rest of the Board of Commissioners on the meeting when they go into executive session during Thursday’s meeting.

Unless the board decides something different, Thurmond said he expects the case to go back to Bishop for a verdict.

Homans and Frey will prepare briefs for the judge to review. Regardless of which side prevails, there is likely to be an appeal.

Fetch Your News reached out to the sheriff for his comments, but he did not return our call.

 

 

 

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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Sheriff’s attorney presents case against county

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Attorney Joey Homans

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The dispute between Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson and the Board of Commissioners over the sheriff’s 2018 budget entered Senior Superior Court Judge Fred A. Bishop’s courtroom Tuesday. Attorney Joey Homans began by asking Bishop to order the county to provide a budget sufficient for the sheriff to perform the duties of his office.

Homans acknowledged the judge has the authority to order the county’s compliance but cannot decide a dollar amount to be awarded.

In his questioning of Johnson, Homans said the county reported the total amount approved to the sheriff was $9,564,324. However, he added, the sheriff did not have discretion over about $600,000 in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds or $260,000 in capital projects.

County Attorney Lynn Frey

In his cross examination of Johnson, County Attorney Lynn Frey elicited testimony that indicated only once since 2010 did the sheriff’s office have more than the current 112 employees. Johnson has often cited the growth in the county’s population as a reason he is requesting more funding, but when Frey asked if the sheriff knew how much population growth there has been, he could not answer.

County 911 Director Alisha Rucker testified there has been an increase in calls for service from 61,241 in 2015 to 65,96e in 2017. She also noted marked increases in reported assaults, domestic violence, child abuse, forgery and sexual battery.

Capt. Matt Hester, who supervises the Uniform Patrol Division, testified the shortage of personnel impacts his officers’ ability to enforce the laws and leads to them being more reactive rather than proactive. “With the current personnel we have,” Hester said, “we’re more in a reactive stance. They respond to calls for service and don’t have as much time to generate proactive activity. They go from call to call to call as opposed to looking for criminal activity.

Lt. Theresa Kirby, who works in the detention center, said the jail is currently allotted 37 positions but has only 33 and needs 57. She testified the division cannot afford to send officers for training.

The lone witness from outside the sheriff’s office was Bill Harkswell, coordinator of jail and court services for the Georgia Sheriff’s Association. Harkswell conducted an analysis of the sheriff’s office in 2014 and concluded that 139 employees were needed to adequately perform the duties at that time. The county currently has 112 employees.

Harkswell said he had 11 years of experience in analyzing staffing needs for sheriffs and that he had performed between 20 and 40 such analyses.

Frey asked how many times Harkswell had ever recommended a reduction in staff. Harkswell answered, “Never.”

The hearing will resume Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. Homans said he has only one more witness to call before Frey begins his defense.

 

 

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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Judge sentences Tisdale to 12 months on probation

News

Nydia Tisdale

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County Senior Superior Court Judge Martha Christian sentenced Nydia Tisdale Monday to serve 12 months  on probation, 40 hours of community service and issued a $1,000 fine after Tisdale’s Dec. 4 conviction of misdemeanor obstruction of a law enforcement officer.

Tisdale was acquitted of the more serious charges of felony obstruction and trespassing that stemmed from her arrest at a political rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in 2014. Tisdale refused to stop videotaping the event and was forcibly removed and arrested by then Dawson County Sheriff’s Captain Tony Wooten.

Tisdale was sentenced under Georgia’s First Offender Act which means that if she successfully completes all the terms of the sentence, she will not have a conviction and the charge will be sealed from her official criminal history.

Tisdale’s attorney Bruce Harvey said his client would appeal the conviction.

“We certainly had hoped that given Nydia’s background, given her support in the community, including the community of journalists who are in the main stream media who understand that any threat to a journalist who provides information to the public about their public officials, would be treated differently than an ordinary misdemeanor,” Harvey said.

Assistant District Attorney Conley Greer referred all questions to District Attorney Lee Darragh.

Harvey presented a long list of character witnesses Monday. Governor Nathan Deal was subpoenaed on Friday to appear on Monday, but Richard Willard, of the Georgia Attorney General’s office, said seeking to have the governor testify on such short notice was “irresponsible” and he made a motion to quash.

Christian granted the motion saying Deal’s testimony would not be “material or relevant.”

Ironically, one witness who did appear on behalf of Tisdale was Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson. He testified that he met Tisdale more than two years ago and had observed her filming several community events. Johnson said he had never witnessed her being disruptive or felt like she was a threat to the public.

When Tisdale took the witness stand, she said, “I meant no harm going to a campaign event that was advertised as public.  I’m sorry this happened. I am asking the court today for leniency. I spent eight hours in county detention on a Saturday night. If the court would consider a sentence of time served, I would greatly appreciate it.”

 

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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Headley: Sheriff’s budget increase close to $1 million

News

County Manager David Headley

DAWSONVILLE Ga. – A report issued by Dawson County Manager David Headley during Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting indicates first-term Sheriff Jeff Johnson, who is threatening to sue the county for a bigger 2018 budget, received an increase of close to $1 million over the 2017 budget.

The sheriff’s budget for the current year is $6,822,566. The approved budget for 2018 is $7,365,547, an increase of $542,981. But Headley points out the sheriff’s office also will receive an increase of nearly half a million dollars in SPLOST funding and an additional $300,000 in capital funding.

Headley’s report indicated the sheriff’s office has received a budget increase in each of the last four years, including next year’s increase of $985,277.

The county manager took exception to a statement made by attorney Joey Homans, who represents the sheriff’s office, at a recent town hall meeting. Homans said commissioners refused to “sit down at the table” to negotiate a budget resolution.

“The notion that we have refused to meet over these matters is just wrong,” Headley said in his report. “The sheriff made his request for a large budget back in July. Since then, we have had several public meetings and hearings and the sheriff and his attorney were allowed to speak as much as they wanted. One of those meetings was a special called meeting held specifically for discussion of the sheriff’s budget.”

He added that the county has repeatedly reached out to the sheriff to offer assistance in matters such as human resources, finance and purchasing, grants and maintenance. “We have a well-trained staff and policies in place which can help with compliance with the law and doing things in the most efficient and economical way,” Headley said. “Our offers have frequently been ignored or declined.”

Headley said he chose to issue his report to clear up much of the confusion and misinformation that exists regarding the dispute between the county and the sheriff.

Johnson has often stated that he needs more officers on patrol, but Headley countered by saying, “Of the sheriff’s position requirements, none are for patrol. He asked for four detention officers for the jail (his top priority), a school resource officer, a communications officer, an investigator, accreditation manager and court services deputy.”

 

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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Commissioners Approve FY 2018 Budget

News

Chairman Billy Thurmond

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners approved a FY 2018 budget of $25,516,312, an increase of 4.98 percent over last year’s budget during Thursday’s meeting.

Chairman Billy Thurmond made it clear from the start of the budget process that one of his goals would be to set a realistic budget that did not overestimate the amount of revenue the county would receive.

Commissioners faced several hurdles in balancing the budget. A wage and salary study last summer indicated that county employees were underpaid. To rectify that situation, commissioners approved a salary increase that totaled about $1.08 million. The amount the county pays for employee healthcare also rose by approximately 18 percent.

To help balance the budget and to maintain the 8.138 millage rate, commissioners reduced the fund balance (reserves) by $1.4 million.

The new budget includes $7.3 million for the Sheriff’s Office, an increase of about $500,000 over last year, but stops short of the $8.1 million Sheriff Jeff Johnson requested. During several meetings with commissioners, Johnson said $7.3 million is not enough to allow him to fulfill the duties of his office.

The dispute does not necessarily end with the adoption of the budget. Sheriffs are constitutional officers, elected by the citizens. If push comes to shove, the sheriff can take his appeal through the court system.

Asked today if he and his attorney, Joey Homans, plan to exercise that option, Johnson said, “We have some evaluation to do.  We will probably decide by the end of next week.”

 

 

 

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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