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

News

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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Commissioners Set Millage Rate at 8.138

News

Attorney Joey Homans

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners set the 2018 millage rate at 8.138 mils Thursday, resulting in a 4.45 percent increase in property taxes.

The new rate will increase the taxes on a home with a fair market value of $250,000 by $34.70. Taxes on a non-homestead property valued at $200,000 will increase by approximately $27.76. The board’s action followed one public hearing on Aug. 10 and two on Thursday.

The only Dawson County resident to speak Thursday was Walden Sheriff, who was opposed to the increase.

After the millage rate was approved unanimously, the board opened a public hearing on the FY 2018 budget.

Commissioner Chris Gaines read a list of proposed reductions and increases that he said would have the overall effect of reducing the general fund budget by $291,609.

The largest reduction proposed was elimination of a 2 percent salary increase for county employees which would result in a savings of $294,540. Employees received one pay increase as a result of the wage and salary study earlier this year. Commissioners unanimously agreed to forego their own pay raise which was scheduled to take effect in January.

The proposed budget has drawn some opposition from Sheriff Jeff Johnson.

Former Dawson County Attorney Joey Homans, appeared on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office and stated that “The sheriff can’t provide law enforcement for the citizens of the county on the budget that is proposed.”

Homans pointed out that a Georgia Sheriff’s Association report in 2015 stated that the sheriff’s office was deficient. He also pointed to tremendous growth along the Ga. Hwy. 400 corridor and major residential growth planned by the City of Dawsonville as events that place increased demands on law enforcement.

Homans said Sheriff Jeff Johnson would like to work with commissioners to resolve the issue and he requested the board schedule an additional budget hearing one week before the budget is adopted.

Commissioners approved the purchase of a 50-foot battery-operated, trailer-mounted boom through a federal contract with GSA at a cost of $35,662.72.

The board also agreed to move forward with replacement of Black’s Mill Bridge, a single-lane bridge that has been closed and can’t be repaired. Public Works and the Purchasing Department will bring cost analysis back to the board for its consideration.

 

 

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