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AUGUST 25, 2004


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OPINIONS
Phillip Sartain
The heat of the day
One day last week, I spied my calendar as it was flipping past at the speed of light. In the process, I noticed that we were well into summer. And that can mean only one thing — time for my annual “Why I Hate Summer” column.

Rochelle Beckstine
Large scale genocide going unnoticed; UN unable to act
In Sudan, the largest country in Africa, more than a thousand natives are dying a day because of ethnic cleansing sanctioned by the ruling regime.


SPORTS
Leopards get first win of season
Leopards defeat Patriots, 30-27
Bolts of lightning lit up the sky Friday night and the Leopards lit up the scoreboard, defeating the Patriots 30-27 to open the season.
Banks County put the first points on the board, and the score was 7-0 after the first quarter.


News from
JACKSON COUNTY
JCWSA votes to sue BOC, municipalities
Conflict arises over service territory; fire truck purchase a political leverage?
The ongoing battle between the county water authority and board of commissioners has heated up again, this time with threats of a lawsuit and of political retribution hanging in the air.

Coming Into Town
Planning Panel Recommends Annexation Of 16 Parcels, 485 Acres
The Commerce Planning Commission voted Monday night to recommend zoning changes and annexation of 485 acres in 16 different tracts.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
A look at the...Property tax process
Many land owners seeking answers on how much they’ll actually have to pay to local gov’t
1,100 appeals filed so far; deadline set for Sept. 4
Property tax notices have many in Madison County scratching their heads now wondering how much money their local government will actually take from them this year.

Fine Finish facility flaws
County leaders may sue to have problems corrected, but they don’t anticipate any new expenses to taxpayers
Shortly after the Advantage Behavorial Services (aka Fine Finish) staff and clients moved into their new building on Hwy. 98 West, they noticed a “hairline” crack in the tile floor of a front hallway.

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LEOPARDS OPEN WITH A WIN

The Banks County High School Leopards opened the season with a win over the Oglethorpe Patriots Friday night. The final score was 30-27.


BOC chairman faces sexual harassment suit
$400,000 sought in damages
Banks County Board of Commission chairman Kenneth Brady was served Monday morning with a $200,000 civil lawsuit claiming he sexually harassed a courthouse employee more than five months ago.
Natalie Dyer, an employee with the county board of tax assessors, is the plaintiff in the case.
Commissioners Rickey Cain and Pat Westmoreland are also being sued for $100,000 each for taking no action on the allegations.
The suit states Brady made “sexually, unwelcome, unwanted comments and gestures of a sexual nature to the plaintiff” on March 10, 2004, near the planning commission office. An unnamed employee of that office was a witness to the scene.
Brady said Tuesday that he has “no comment at this time” about the allegations.
Brady is completing his first term in office and is facing opposition for the chairman’s seat in the November election.
Dyer alleges that Brady said, “You’re awfully bouncy today,” and then he “mocked her movement by smiling as he bounced his own body up and down with his hands cradled in the front of his body.”
In the suit, Dyer stated that the incident left her “humiliated, degraded, victimized, embarrassed and emotionally and physically distressed by what had happened.”
Dyer’s attorney, Nancy Val Preda, named commissioners Cain and Westmoreland in the suit for not officially reprimanding Brady for his “misconduct and for allowing him to continue to threaten and harass the plaintiff.”
Val Preda states that the commissioners’ failure to take action amounted to “condoning, ratifying and approving Brady’s action” and causing more stress on her.
Monday evening, Westmoreland stated he had not been informed by the county clerk or by Brady that any incident had occurred. He became aware of the incident through conversations with Connie Garrison, head appraiser of the board of tax assessors of Banks County.
“We should have been told,” Westmoreland said. “The county attorney should have been called to find out what our recourse was for this behavior. But it didn’t happen.”
Cain said he would be unable to make a comment until speaking with the county attorney.
COMPLAINT FILED
IN MARCH
Dyer filed a complaint with Garrison, her superior, on March 10. The detailed document, obtained by The Banks County News, stated, in part: “[Dyer] is concerned that this behavior is totally unacceptable due to the mockery of her own body parts.” It goes on to state that she “is concerned about retaliation” from Brady.
On March 11, Dyer and Garrison went to county clerk Jenni Gailey with the complaint. Dyer had prepared a document of apology for Brady to sign that said he would cease any harassment, verbally or with body language, toward her and would not permit his family and friends to harass her.
He apologized and signed the document, according to an official source.
However, the suit continues, “[Brady] chose to make verbal threats to all parties and witnesses present at the meeting” that anyone talking about the incident would be fired.
“This only furthered the embarrassment, humiliation, victimization and emotional distress inflicted on [Dyer] by Brady,” the suit reads. “Brady’s comments and retaliation against [Dyer] have resulted in a hostile environment for [her]. She has suffered severe emotional and physical distress over fear of losing her position.”
Val Preda has been working on the case for some time. In order to file the suit, approval had to be granted from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Once the EEOC signed off on it, the case was passed to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.
In a letter dated July 23, the Department of Justice stated: “…You have the right to institute a civil action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against the above-named respondent.”
Val Preda said the BOC has 20 days to respond to the suit.
“The ball is in their court and we’ll be waiting to hear from them or the county attorney,” she said. “They can either admit or deny the allegations. We do intend to pursue this to the fullest extent possible. We stand by the allegations as stated in the suit.”
Once the commissioners have responded, the next step would be interrogatories and depositions from all parties involved, she said.


BJC Authority accepts GE financing bid
General Electric’s financing service will bring good things to life for BJC Medical Center this year to the tune of a half-million dollars.
The BJC Medical Center Authority’s finance director, Bill Williams, reported that GE submitted the low bid for a $500,000 financing package for the year’s capital expenditures. The rate is 3.31 percent for five years.
“That’s an excellent rate. I commend you for that,” said Jimmy Hooper.
Also on Monday night, the authority accepted Williams’ recommendation to, as part of that package, acquire a new “C-arm,” a device used to take X-rays during surgery. The $138,000 piece of equipment was not in the authority’s capital outlay budget, but Williams said he had deleted some “lower priority items” to keep within the half-million dollar budget. The machine will replace a 15-year-old piece of equipment that has begun causing problems and was recently put out of service.
In other business, the authority granted courtesy staff privileges to three doctors and consulting staff privileges to two others. Those gaining courtesy staff (emergency room) privileges include Drs. Kenneth Campbell, Kenneth Corse and Salah Sherif. All three men are already working for the facility. Given consulting status were Drs. Naiyer Imam, radiology, and Shahzad Hashmi, psychiatry, who will work mainly with the nursing facility but will be available to evaluate people who come in the emergency room.
By a unanimous vote, the authority agreed to spend $25,000 to purchase a patient lift system for the nursing facility. The equipment has the dual benefits of ensuring patient safety and protecting workers against injury, Williams pointed out.


Planners to meet Sept. 7
Five conditional use requests on agenda
The Banks County Planning Commission will meet at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 7, at the courthouse in Homer.
Items on the agenda include:
•a conditional use application from National Wireless Construction to build a telecommunications tower at the intersection of Partain Road and Bruce Kesler Road.
•a conditional use application from Lightnin’ RV Sales and Service LLC for a recreational vehicle sales facility at 30600 Highway 441 South.
•a conditional use application from Robert Evans for a bait and tackle shop at 137 Beaulah Lane.
•a conditional use application from Tim Farmer for a shop to house plumbing vehicles on Hickory Flat Drive.
•a conditional use application from Bruce L. Oye for a home-based business at 1520 Grove Level Road.
•a rezoning application for Cynthia Farmer to rezone 121 acres on Hickory Flat Drive from ARR, Agricultural, Rural-Residential to CAD, Commercial Agricultural District.
•a rezoning application for Tim Brooks to rezone 159 acres on Hebron Road from ARR, Agricultural, Rural-Residential to R-1, Single Family Residential.

 


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Banks, Jackson tune up for Chamber Challenge
The chambers of commerce of Banks and Jackson counties will again be facing off against each other at the Atlanta Dragway on Thursday, August 26.
For more information on the Chamber Challenge, contact the Banks County chamber office at 677-2108.


Social services topic at DFACS
Board members of the Banks County Department of Family and Children Services were joined by Generous Hearts board member Pat Westmoreland and Family Connections coordinator Robin Trotter last week for a lively discussion about inter-agency communications.
Westmoreland explained that Generous Hearts is a volunteer organization operating on a limited budget that supplies and operates the county’s emergency food and clothing bank. DFACS often calls upon the organization for help with families in need of food and clothing.
However, due to illness of the former volunteer director, the bank remains closed most of the time and opens on an as-needed basis.
Trotter, also a board member, has taken on the responsibility of answering calls for help. Since her duties with Family Connections can take her away from her office frequently, sometimes calls are missed.
Westmoreland presented his card to the board members and to Renota Free, DFACS director, so that in the event Trotter was not available, he could handle emergencies.
“Generous Hearts is run on a minimal budget,” he said. “We started the year with $6,500 and $3,600 is already gone. We help people pay rent, utility bills and emergency shelter for a night or two. Our funding comes from individual donors and some of the county churches. We work closely with DFACS and with Ninth District Opportunity to provide for our citizens.”
During the holidays, Generous Hearts and Family Connections hold a canned, dry food drive in conjunction with the school system to fill baskets for families. Last year, 150 families in the county were given food and gifts at Christmas, he said.
“We are blessed to be able to pay our bills and buy our food,” he said. “Some of the people we help can’t. They can’t even buy gas to get to their jobs.
“Together, we can serve the needs of our county residents more efficiently. Sometimes there is miscommunication and things don’t go as smoothly as they could. We just wanted to explain why that has happened.”