Saturday, November 07, 2015

Oconee County Commission Chairman Inquired About Animal Shelter Operated By Citizen After She Filed An Ethics Complaint Against Him

We Care

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis called the owner of the property where Sarah Bell plans to locate her We Care animal shelter one week after Special Master James Warnes dismissed Bell’s ethics complaint against Davis.

Davis inquired about the animal shelter, according to Debra Brown, who owns the land in the western part of the county where Bell is renovating a building for her We Care facility.

That same day, Oct. 23, Kathy Hayes, executive assistant to Davis, called B.R. White, director of Code Enforcement for Oconee County, asking about the status of a complaint the county had filed against Bell last January charging a violation of the county’s land use code.

White said that he told Hayes that the complaint had been dismissed. Records show that action took place on Sept. 11.

Property Owner Brown said she told Davis that he needed to talk to Bell if he wanted to learn about We Care and its plans.

Davis didn’t call Bell, but Bell did respond on Oct. 27 when she used the citizen comment section of the Board of Commissioners meeting to say “I want it to be on the record that I will not be intimidated.”

No Response

Davis did not respond to Bell’s comments about intimidation after she made them. He looked away and wrote on a pad of paper while she spoke.

“I will not be scared for doing the right thing,” Bell said, as is shown in the video below. “I will continue to do the right thing as far as I can.” Davis is seated to Bell’s left wearing a grey jacket and striped tie.

BOC: Bell On Intimidation from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Bell filed her complaint against Davis on Oct. 12, charging him with violation of eight separate prohibitions of the county’s Ethics Ordinance for commissioners.

Bell’s said that Davis had violated the ordinance when he attempted to get the county to reconnect Old Mars Hill Road to Mars Hill Road and the county spent $10,000 on redesign work for that project. The Board of Commissioners ultimately rejected the project.

Special Master Warnes dismissed the complaint on Oct. 16 saying it did “not set forth material facts for which remedy can be given.”

Brown Phone Call

Davis called Brown on Oct. 23 and left a voice mail message when Brown did not answer.

This is the message Davis left on Brown’s phone:

OCO: Davis Phone Call from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Brown called Davis back and then called Bell, as the screen shows.

Bell is renovating a garage on Brown’s property, which is in the western part of the county. Because the facility will not be staffed to accept drop offs, I have agreed not to give its location.

We Care

Bell, who lives a 1201 Arrowhead Road in Indian Hills subdivision east of Butler’s Crossing, incorporated We Care Animal Haven in 2011 and has operated in a number of locations since that time.

According to county Code Enforcement records, Bell was cited in 2011 for operating the facility in a residential area. The records indicate Bell was given a number of extensions on deadlines to move the facility and did so late in 2012.

On Jan. 6 of this year Bell was cited for the land use violation.

The county asked Oconee County Magistrate Court Judge Eric W. Norris to dismiss that second charge, and Judge Norris did that on Sept. 11.

Bell advertises We Care as a “No-kill shelter.” At present she is only caring for cats.

Bell, long active in the local Republican Party, ran against Davis in the Republican primary in 2008 and lost by 100 votes.


Beanne said...

Good work by Ms. Brown to record the call and Ms. Bell to not be intimidated. Mr. Davis continues to try to thwart any opposition. He is straying hopefully closer and closer to an action which will lead to his defeat.

Dan Magee said...

This is simply unacceptable. Melvin Davis, again and again, and more so recently, makes poor decisions. He has no standing to be involved with the county's day to day operations. As a commissioner, his duties are to set policies and goals, and allow the county manager and department heads to met those goals as stated.

I'm sure we will hear Davis' spin on this matter. I'm also sure this situation will not be covered by the Oconee Enterprise, Oconee Leader or Banner-Herald.

Mr. Davis is just one of five commissioners. He is not the CEO of Oconee County. This situation smacks of intimidation, hard to interpret any other way.

The other four commissioners need to stand firm and be very clear with Davis that this type of behavior is unacceptable and simply will not be tolerated. This is beyond embarrassing. Anything less than a public apology issued by Davis to Ms. Bell will not suffice, and invite the questions on Davis' fitness to hold the position of Commission Chair.

-Dan Magee

P.S. Thanks as always to Lee Becker for covering the important news of Oconee. Journalism matters.

Anonymous said...

Hate to see Kathy Hayes involved in Melvin's skullduggery.