THE NEXT SCAPEGOAT

August 18, 2014

Definition of Scapegoat:   [skeyp-goht]
noun

  1. a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place
  2. Chiefly a goat let loose in the wilderness on Yom Kippur after the high priest symbolically laid the sins of the people on its head. Lev. 16:8,10,26. ScapegoatKaren Degges was hired as County Manager on June 20, 2013. The fiscal year ended on June 30, 2013. Lorri Smith, the County Manager when Karen Degges was hired, stayed on the payroll as a consultant for the next month. Lorri was kept on the payroll to help with the audit and a few other things, but was told by Ms. Degges that her services were no longer needed. Then for the next year Ms. Degges made Lorri Smith her scapegoat and blamed every possible thing on her. Anything Karen Degges didn’t understand, the way the budget was done, any policy she didn’t like, and anything that went wrong has been blamed on Lorri Smith by Ms. Degges. We have heard it in BOC meetings and sources have told us the same thing has happened in department head meetings.

Even though Lorri Smith was talked about as if she didn’t do anything right, it didn’t keep Karen Degges from accepting the Financial Achievement Award earned by Lorri Smith for the year ending 6/30/13.  Ms. Degges was only hired for a few days of that fiscal year, but since she was the County Manager as of 6/30/13, she was given the award that Lorri Smith did all the work to earn.    (See Copy of award letter here).  Notice in the letter that Ms. Degges’ title is County Manager/Finance Director–the reason she got the award.

Now that Ms. Smith has been gone for more than a year, it is going to be hard to keep blaming her when things go wrong. Someone else has to be the scapegoat. As soon as the budget work was all done in June this year, an ad was put in the paper for a financial director. TWG put out a blog about it you can read here: http://taxdogs.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/the-county-needs-an-additional-finance-director-position/

After a recent BOC meeting Comm. Trammell said that there would be no new Finance Director, but instead an employee would be replaced. He repeated some things that obviously Ms. Degges had told him. You see folks, Karen Degges will need to have someone to blame for things, so why not get rid of another employee and then blame everything on her when there are audit findings or budget problems in the coming year?

Mike Benton, former CFO and member of the board of directors of Angel Food Ministries, has applied for the county Finance Director job, and rumors are that Ms. Degges wants to hire him. Cissy Benton, his wife, has just resigned as Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce. Her salary was paid with the money the BOC recently started budgeting to give the Chamber.

We will soon see who the next Finance Director is (even though this is part of Karen Degges’ duties now) and how long it will take for someone else to become the next scapegoat.

Video of FINANCIAL REPORTING ACHIEVEMENT—CERTIFICATE OF EXCELLENCE

 

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Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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RECREATION IN JASPER COUNTY—PUBLIC HEARING TONIGHT

August 18, 2014

BallAsst
Tonight at 6:00PM there will be a public hearing on a future recreation plan for Jasper County.

 

The BOC has hired the NE Georgia Regional Commission to work on a plan, and this will be your time to give input.

 

The meeting will be held downstairs in the Courthouse in the BOC meeting room. Make plans to attend if you have any interest in Recreation in Jasper County.

 

 

Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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ACTION ALERT – Joint Transportation Study Group to Meet Near You

ACTION ALERT – Joint Transportation Study Group to Meet Near You
August 15, 2014

We are forwarding some important information about traffic and transportation infrastructure in Georgia, and a chance to let your voice be heard. The public hearing for this area will be in Macon. The location and time has not been set yet, but we should know the details sometime next week. If you are interested in going please email us at taxpayerwatchdogs@yahoo.com A group of us could go together.

 Traffic Truth

Did you know that All Georgians now subsidize Atlanta’s middle class commuters through the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) for Xpress bus service in metro Atlanta?  For some reason, they cannot raise the fare.  See the report.

 
Did you know that of the 4% sales tax on gasoline that consumers pay in Georgia, 25% of that tax goes to the state general fund instead of being utilized directly on transportation needs?

Did you know that Georgia’s Statewide Transportation Plan 2005-2035 has an estimated cost of $160 billion? Yet, only $86 billion is expected to be available for transportation spending over that period. That leaves a funding gap of $74 billion.

WHERE DO YOU THINK THE REST OF THAT MONEY IS GOING TO COME FROM? It’s time to make your voices heard.

HR 1573 created a joint study committee of 16 members for the purpose of identifying new sources and methods of funding for critical transportation infrastructure needs.  The committee is authorized for eight days and will make recommendations to the legislature by November 30, 2014.

The Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding will be holding public information meetings on the following tentative dates and cities.  There will be time for public comment.  You are encouraged to attend so that your concerns can be heard.   

August 18th Columbus
September 2nd Tifton
September 3rd Macon
September 30th Augusta
October 1st Savannah
October 28th Rome
October 29th Blue Ridge

The first meeting was held in Atlanta on August 5th. Georgia DOT Commissioner Keith Golden gave a presentation on Transportation in Georgia.  Some of the suggestions discussed:

  1. Putting the 4th penny of the gas tax back in the transportation fund
  2. Legislation to allow fractional SPLOST
  3. Raise the gas tax
  4. Multi-jurisdictional (2 or more counties) SPLOSTS like those proposed by Ed Setzler in HB195.
  5. Keeping gas tax revenue in the state instead of sending it to Washington. There are strings attached with federal money which increase costs and causes delays. See the Transportation Empowerment Act proposed by Congressman Tom Graves.
  6. Mileage meters on cars (tax on miles driven)
  7. Autonomous cars
  8. More HOT lanes (toll roads)

Although the TSPLOST was defeated in 9 out of 12 regions, HB 277, the TSPLOST law is still on the books.  Now is the time to make your voices heard.  Contact the House Staff: Tracy Atcheson (404) 656-1782 for exact locations and confirmation of the meeting dates and times.

This message is being sent by the Transportation Leadership Coalition and is not affiliated with the General Assembly legislators or staff.

Please help spread the word by forwarding this email to all interested parties you think will be affected.

Thanks,

Transportation Leadership Coalition, LLC
800-821-0102
www.repealregionalism.com
www.traffictruth.net


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BOC SIGNS AGREEMENT TO GIVE MONEY TO JCWSA FOR 31 YEARS PLUS ANOTHER $50,000 IMMEDIATELY

August 13, 2014

Sign AgreementComm. Salmon didn’t wait for the Attorney General to determine if he was ethical or not, because he just had to make the motion at the 8/11/14 BOC meeting to go ahead and sign the 31-year Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) (that was not on the agenda) with JCWSA so the county could give them money. This has been his goal since he ran for office.

The agenda item listed was to discuss the $50,000 up front money for “past payment issues”— so that JCWSA has enough money to pay its USDA debt. This turned into discussing a draft of the IGA they had received from the county attorney and filling in the blanks and voting. Note the vote was unanimous with Doug Luke not attending the meeting. (All votes on 8/11/14 were 4-0)

No one other than the BOC members, County Manager, and the county attorney were privy to what was in this agreement indebting the county to pay the JCWSA for 31 years. No citizen was allowed to see it, read it ahead of time, or comment on it. It was not on the website and it was not in the agenda packet.

The all knowing BOC– which includes two members who served on the JCWSA for 4 years, both of whom have made it well known they had an agenda to “help” the JCWSA—has no use for what the citizens think nor do they care. They have shown us repeatedly their loyalties are more with the JCWSA than with the other 97% of the citizens in this county.

Here is a copy of the agreement. Some highlights are:

Item #2 says JCWSA shall continue operation and maintenance of the fire hydrants. Have you looked around at how the hydrants are being maintained? They are not. They haven’t been maintained for several years, and some of them you can’t even see because of the weeds around them. On top of that, JCWSA wants our fire chief and his helper to cut around the hydrants while JCWSA is being paid to maintain them.

Item #3 says JCWSA gets a one time $50,000 payment immediately plus $42,900 per year every December 31st through 2045. At present JCWSA says it is two (possibly 3) payments behind on its USDA bond note with a $10,000+ monthly payment. It also owes the Bank of Monticello $57,000+ according to their financials. This is the real reason for all of this, to justify giving JCWSA money to catch up on its debts.

Item #4 says JCWSA can no longer say the county owes them anything. Thank goodness for this stipulation, but don’t count on this keeping JCWSA from coming before the BOC in another year or two and asking for more money.

Item #5 says JCWSA can add more lines and more hydrants and get paid more than $42,900 per year. All the BOC has to do is to amend the agreement and voila! more money for JCWSA. Of course, if they do add more lines, they will incur more debt that they can’t pay.

County attorney, Jim Alexander, made it clear that the county (that means you, the taxpayer) was liable for these payments to the JCWSA. After being questioned from the audience, Comm. Trammell did say that there would still be a “fire hydrant tax district” and this money would be collected from the properties in this district.

The Monticello News reported this week that the $50,000 would be paid back to the county over 11 years; however, there is no such stipulation in the agreement. The $50,000 is being funded with all that excess cash the County Manager says the county has. Again we ask, if there is so much excess cash, why was there a 2 mil tax increase? This $50,000 can only be recouped if the tax levy is more than the $42,900 that will be given to JCWSA, but again, there is no stipulation that it will be or has to be recouped.

Other questions that come to mind:

  • Who makes sure our tax money is being spent in the best possible way by JCWSA?
  • Does the Jasper County BOC oversee anything the JCWSA does since it provides them with tax money each year? (Never have in the past, and don’t expect it to happen in the future.)
  • Is the “Receivable” from Jasper County BOC shown on the JCWSA financial statements (now over $100,000) going to be removed?
  • Exactly who is the owner of JCWSA?

Here are the videos of what was said during the meeting discussion and vote to approve the IGA with JCWSA and to immediately pay them $50,000 (this $50,000 is just a rounding up of what is “actually owed” according to Karen Degges, County Manager, to “make it easier.”)

Part 1—County Manager presents background on issue (2 min)

Part 2—County attorney discusses the IGA (1.5 min) (Mr. Alexander, in fact, disagreed with Karen Degges and said an IGA did need to be agreed upon before any money was given to JCWSA to prevent the JCWSA from continuing to come back for more money.)

Part 3—BOC discussion and vote (4.5 min)

 

At the end of the meeting Comm. Salmon made some comments. He said he hoped we could move forward and this would make USDA happy and now we can get additional loans from them! Just what we need—more loans that can’t be repaid!!   It would be great if Comm. Salmon was as concerned about how happy the citizens of the county were.  Watch—it is only 35 seconds long.

 

 

Make your comments on our blog and/or our Facebook page.

Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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Posted in County, Water | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments

BOC Meeting Tonight—JCWSA Hydrant Tax Added to Agenda

August 11, 2014

Even though the agenda had been set and posted, Saturday evening there was a new item added–      JCWSA Hydrant District – Follow Up. This item was added after our blog was posted about Salmon wanting the Attorney General to investigate.

Other items on the agenda are:

Old Business:

NEGRC Citizen Representative

Jasper County Water and Sewer Authority Board Appointments

New Business:

  1. Property Tax Online Payments – Tax Commissioner
  2. Uniform Contract – Public Works
  3. G.A Food Service Contract – Senior Center
  4. Copier Lease Renewals – BOC, Senior Center,
  5. Weapon Replacement Program – Sheriff’s Office
  6. Courthouse Server Replacement
  7. Comcast Service Agreement – County Facilities Network

The meeting starts at 6:00PM. Please try to attend so you can see and hear for yourself what is discussed.

Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and talked about, and then press our officials to make good decisions for everyone in Jasper County. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.

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Posted in County, Water | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Salmon asks State Attorney General to Investigate

CRAIG SALMON’S QUEST FOR ETHICS—

August 9, 2014

During the 7/21/14 BOC meeting, Craig Salmon wrote and sent an email to the Attorney General. He read it out loud at the meeting.

Salmon continues to act on his own without any BOC authorization. This is against the county ethics policy. He has tried 3 times to have these water issues “investigated” and his own board has refused 3 times. Now he wants the State Attorney General to investigate, and to say that Salmon is ethical, because Salmon says “he is doing the right thing for the County.”

Salmon did the same thing when he sent USDA a letter, encouraging them to sue the county so JCWSA debt would be paid by the county taxpayers. Here is what State Law says about JCWSA/USDA bonds.  This clearly states that the county is not  responsible for the JCWSA bond debt. Bond Liability OCGADespite the law, the BOC wants to make the county responsible for JCWSA debt with a 30+ year intergovernmental agreement which is to be brought up in September.

Salmon is not representing the citizens of the county but only the special interests of JCWSA. Why is Comm. Salmon so obsessed with JCWSA? Why does he want the taxpayers of this county, 97% of whom don’t have or use county water, to prop up and support something that is suppose to support itself with revenues from the system? The people of this county have been lied to since day 1 about the JCWSA, and Craig Salmon continues to condone the lies rather than the facts.

In December, before Salmon & Trammell officially became commissioners, they informed the JCWSA board that “they would not be able to vote on water authority issues for the next year because of ethics.”  The following video was recorded while Mr. Trammell was speaking. TWG did not say this as Salmon keeps repeating.

 Salmon wants the Attorney General of Georgia to pat him on the back and tell him he is ethical. If he was so concerned about it being a conflict of interest, Salmon should have not voted, much less made the motion until he was sure. In addition, the county attorney didn’t give Salmon the answers he wanted, so he had to ask the Attorney General to respond in hopes of a better answer.

“The People must remain ever vigilant against tyrants masquerading as public servants.”  — George Washington

 

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Posted in County, Water | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

CITIZENS CONTINUE TO BLOW THE WHISTLE ON PROBLEMS

August 6, 2014

WhistleblowerOur recent blog “When Somebody Dies it Won’t be Quite So Funny” has had a lot of reaction. There have been many comments, some quite enlightening as to other problems at EMS. If you haven’t read them, click here to do so: Comments You should scroll up and down to read them all; many are quite frank and surprising.

 

Citizens have called us to tell us about other problems they have encountered or about what they consider to be a waste of taxpayer’s money or violations of policies.

 

During the week of July 21-25, Sharon Robinson took time off work (more than just a lunch hour) to attend cheer camp at the high school. Sources tell us cheer camp lasted from 11:00AM to 1:00PM daily and Ms. Robinson was there. A picture of her vehicle parked out in front of the high school was sent to us and we have other verifying reports.

Sharon,Cheer.HS.072414.1130AM

This picture was taken on Thursday, July 24 at 11:30AM. What time did she get back to work? Her vehicle wasn’t back at the courthouse at 2:00PM.

 

 

 

A local contractor called and said he couldn’t get anyone on the phone at Planning and Zoning from 8:00AM-8:30AM, so he went by the office at 8:30AM. Neither Brad Cherry nor Sherry Braley were there. He got witnesses that worked in the court house to come to the door of the office to see that it was still dark. When he asked what time anyone ever showed up, he was told “around 10:00AM.” This is what most people encounter when they try to get a building permit or (in the case of this contractor, who had tried for 2 days to get in touch with someone) to get a final inspection.

 

P&Z Out of OfficeThis sign or a “closed” sign are on the Planning and Zoning door most of the time. Where are these people, and why don’t they have to be at work at 8:00AM? Why don’t they return the telephone calls? What happens to people that come into town to do business here? Are they supposed to just sit and wait and hope someone shows up? Why is no one supervising?

 

That answer may be that the County Manager also has a hard time getting to work by 8:00AM. In fact many citizens have complained that they can’t find her in the office before 9:00AM, and at lunch time (when they have some time off) they can’t find her in the office either. Rumors are that two hour lunches are not uncommon. We have heard and read the excuses the County Manager gives about working at night, on weekends, etc.; however, her contract says she is to work normal business hours—that means 8:00AM to 5:00PM. How does she know who is at work on time and who isn’t if she isn’t there on time herself?

It appears that based on many of the calls we received that some county employees that work downstairs come and go as they please. We have to wonder if there is unlimited time off for these employees.

EMS, as the blog comments show, has its own special problems. Even though there is proof and confirmation of the proof that employees used county equipment for personal use, we have heard of no disciplinary actions or suspensions. We’ve been told that on Tuesday (8/5/14) Keith Haddock and Debria Murphy worked as partners on an ambulance.

The county has a Whistleblower Policy; however, most all employees are too afraid to talk about what they see on a daily basis for fear of losing their jobs. The BOC seems to have their collective heads in the sand not to see what everyone else does or not to do anything about it. When people at the top (BOC Staff) don’t work, take unlimited time off, come in late, and leave early, others think they can do so as well. It makes for a very unproductive and resentful (for those that actually do work) work environment.

 There are certain employees in this county who think they are untouchable, and they seem to be unaccountable to no one. They think there will be no consequences for anything they do because they know they are untouchable.

Posted in County, EMS | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments