Pendergrass Mayor Monk Tolbert said Tuesday night that the GBI probe into his town had ended. The probe was called by District Attorney Brad Smith late last week, but was reportedly limited in scope.
Tolbert said at the town's council meeting that the GBI found no criminal action in either the city court or in how the city handled SPLOST funds. Those were two areas of concern to come from three city whistleblowers who alleged widespread wrongdoing in the town.
Also at Tuesday night's meeting, around 85 citizens attended and many complained about the allegations of misconduct by city officials. Several said they were "embarrassed" by the town's leadership. Most were critical of city administrator Rob Russell and several also questioned Tolbert about his handling in settling a lawsuit against the town by a former employee for $20,000 without any city council action.
The council sat stone-faced during the citizen comment period and didn't respond to citizens.
After the meeting was over, members of the council began to walk across the street to the mayor's real estate office for what was apparently going to be an illegal secret council meeting. Mayor Tolbert, his mother-in-law Hilda Gee and Judy Stowe all went into Tolbert's office, forming a quorum. Councilman John Pethel appeared to head toward the office, but turned back when he noticed a photographer making photos of the others going into Tolbert's office.
When told by a reporter that the secret meeting was illegal, city attorney Walter Harvey said the council could walk wherever it wanted to. Harvey also entered Tolbert's office, but left a few minutes later. Gee also left after a few minutes, leaving less than a quorum with Stowe and Tolbert.
It's not known if the group gather at some other location. Georgia law provides that anytime a quorum assembles to discuss public business, it has to be an open meeting. It is a criminal and civil offense to hold closed-door or secret meetings.
For the complete story, see the August 26 issue of The Jackson Herald.
THREE City of Pendergrass employees allege that the town is rife with corruption, ticket-fixing and favoritism, but that Mayor Monk Tolbert ignored evidence they gave him in June of the wrongdoing and instead, fired two of them under the guise of “budget cutting.”
On June 28, city clerk Katherine Rintoul, policeman Scott Rogers and policeman Bill Garner, along with their attorney Nancy Val Preda, said they met with Mayor Tolbert and gave him documentation and audio recordings they had been gathering for weeks of what they worried could be unethical or illegal activities by city administrator/police chief Rob Russell.
But rather than dealing with Russell, Rintoul and Rogers were fired last week by the mayor and council, supposedly as part of city budget cuts. The two say, however, their dismissals were really in retribution for their having blown the whistle on Russell.
MONDAY NIGHT REPORT FROM FOX5 TV: Cut and past into your browser
The Pendergrass City Council eliminated half of its workforce on Tuesday night, including dismissing its city clerk.
In a unanimous vote by the council, the following five positions were cut: City clerk Katherine Rintoul; assistant city clerk Renee Martinez; full-time police officer Scott Rogers; full-time police investigator Mark Abruzzino; and a full-time position in streets and parks that is currently vacant.
Mayor Monk Tolbert met with the employees following the meeting to inform them of the council’s decision.
“I have evaluated our organizational structure and determined that we must eliminate employee positions by 50 percent immediately,” Tolbert said. “We will offer our displaced employees a severance package and they are eligible for COBRA benefits for their insurance needs. I wish these employees good luck and each of them will get an excellent reference from me.”
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The Jefferson City School System has cut two of next week’s scheduled teacher pre-planning days and one teacher work day in October in response to the governor’s state-mandated furlough announced Tuesday.
In addition, the system has cancelled the annual community breakfast originally slated for next Wednesday.
Preplanning for Jefferson teachers has been cancelled for Monday, July 27 and Friday, July 31. The school system’s registration schedule for the week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday remains unchanged.
In addition to next week’s furlough days, the system has cancelled a scheduled teacher workday on Oct. 2.
The governor said Tuesday that among other state cuts, schools should furlough staff members for three days before the end of the calendar year.
The Jackson County School System has not announced when its furlough days will be held.
UPDATE: As of early Monday evening, no cases of swine flu had been reported in Georgia, according to Georgia officials. More updates to come as the situation develops. ***
Although no cases of the swine flu have been reported in Georgia, Jackson County EMA officials are monitoring reports of the outbreak in other states. Jackson County EMA director Steve Nichols said Monday that local officials were "watching the situation closely" and are incontact with state GEMA officials who are also monitoring state and national health reports.
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The Georgia Republican Party is about to decide its image for the foreseeable future. Last Thursday, the Georgia Senate passed SB 169, the anti-stem cell research bill that would ban therapeutic cloning in embryonic stem cell research.
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Bill Navas, who coached the Jefferson Dragons football team to the 2008 8-AA title, has announced his resignation as head football coach. In an email released Friday, Navas announced that has accepted an administrative position at Duluth High School. He will serve as Duluth's Director of Athletics. Along with winning the 8-AA title last year, ...
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Power has been restored to most areas of Jackson County officials of Jackson EMC said Wednesday morning with only 354 customers in the area still without electricity. Most of that is in the South Jackson area, officials said.
In Madison County, some 4,386 JEMC customers remain without power Wednesday morning, down from 8,000 Tuesday afternoon. Madison County was hit hard by Sunday's snow storm and school was again canceled Wednesday.
According to JEMC, 30 work crews are in Madison County Wednesday. Some 70 broken power poles were rreported in the county with 17 remaining to be fixed. Mud has been a major problem in restoring power, officials said, as trucks get bogged down and have to be pulled out of the mire.
Most of the feeder lines have been restored in Madison County, JEMC officials said Wednesday morning and work in both Madison and Jackson is now focused on restoring power to individual homes.