24 JUL 11: Burning Itself Out?
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is a wide-ranging agency. It takes reports of methamphetamine labs around the state. It keeps track of sex offenders and where they live. And after the news of this past week, maybe the G.B.I. should track down dozens of Muscogee County School students -- because they obviously disappeared from the AYP report.
SUNDAY SOAPBOX: The G.B.I. came up in the Columbus news this past week, because of issues involving the Muscogee County Sheriff. That led to this....
Mark Shelnutt told WRBL Sunday by turning his complaint over to the G.B.I., Mayor Tomlinson is having a "chilling effect" on other possible whistleblowers. Shelnutt says it tells "rank and file workers -- shut up." He needs to explain that to the civil rights leaders who want the G.B.I. to investigate practically everything else in town(18 JUL 11 Blog of Columbus, Ga.).
I do not speak for them, but civil rights leaders hardly "want the G.B.I. to investigate practically everything else in town.") I do not know of any call by civil rights leaders for the GBI since Mayor Tomlinson has been in office. However, I do remember the NAACP during the Wetherington administration calling for the GBI to come in and investigate the Parks and Recreation case. The Grassroots Unity Movement For Change, Georgia NAACP, and the IMA asked the mayor to bring in the GBI to conduct an independent investigation of written allegations of fraud in the Columbus Department of Fire and EMS. Then-Mayor Jim Wetherington refused to call the GBI on each occasion in the situation with Columbus Fire & EMS, simply claiming he believed everything Chief Jeff Meyer had told him about the alleged fraud. Nothing ever became of it and the Ledger Enquirer never doggedly pursued the case to determine any mismanagement by Meyer or Wetherington.
After the GBI was called in by Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman to independently investigate the Junior Marshal's Program and they completely exonerated the Municipal Court clerk and the marshal of any criminal wrongdoing, Jim Wetherington never called the GBI in to investigate anything in Columbus. The evidence packet supporting allegations of fraud inside Fire & EMS was provided to DA Julia Slater. The DA refused to call in GBI but does not deny the evidence in the packet of potential fraud. Likewise, the same evidence packet was provided to Mayor Tomlinson. Not one councilor in 2010 ever asked us to see one even one supporting document or ever asked me one question on the occasions I appeared before council about waste, fraud, and abuse. Not one. They knew we had factual information that was acquired from city records. The mayor and council were not interested for a number of reasons, among them a tremendous lack of respect for the citizens that were championing the cause and demanding accountability. Not one of the three minority councilors would even make a motion against Jim Wetherington to bring the issue to a public vote. They pleaded with him to bring in the GBI, but would not make a make to for a vote. That was totally disingenuous and irresponsible on their parts. We don't count Barnes. Pops Barnes hates all the noteworthy activists who happen to be African American. His vote and position is always opposite whatever ours would be.
You simply cannot pass the buck when the law has been broken and you are presented with the evidence. You cannot play politics. What DA Julia Slater and the others have allowed to happen with the Fire & EMS case is for any statute of limitations pertaining to the fraud to expire. So we should just stop lying to ourselves in this city about justice or right and wrong or even good government. The road was paved for the players to all retire and the whole thing to go away quietly. It is all about politics, cliques, and cronyism. If you allow the system to tell one group of citizens they do not matter, the day is certainly going to come when the power structure on a whim tells another group their citizenship and concerns do not matter.
Even after the Parks & Recreation defendants have pleaded guilty the Ledger Enquirer is still trying to lay blame squarely on the shoulders of City Manager Isaiah Hugley and Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin so council will have reason to fire one or both. It is plain to see exactly what is shaping up. Members of the Wetherington gang on council are still working to divide this city just like Wetherington did his entire term.
With all the public attention we brought to allegations of fraud within Fire and EMS during the 2010 campaign season not one elected officials has made a public statement regarding pursuing the issue on any level even to clear Chief Jeffery A. Meyer's name, that fact alone speaks for itself. What Jim Wetherington got away with it for 4 years was bad, not doing anything about when it is your duty and responsibility and you have the power and authority given to you by the people and the law is worse.
Brother Love, Director
Grassroots Unity Movement for Change
As I recall, it was Georgia NAACP President Ed DuBose who once called for the G.B.I. to do a full review of the entire city government. After all, city auditor John Redmond is only one man....
In case you came in late: C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon is bringing up the city "scandal" which preceded the Parks and Recreation case. A Fire/EMS officer found sharp screws near the tires of her vehicle. Questions arose about time card fixing. Hardmon even wondered if Jeff Meyer was the godson of Jim Wetherington [7 Oct 10]. Maybe this is why Wetherington has disappeared from view for seven months.
There may be another reason why no one on Columbus Council wanted to ask about Fire/EMS during "the 2010 campaign season." It WAS the 2010 campaign season. Most candidates realized more voters care about the crime-fighting side of public safety than whether criminal activity was lurking on the other side.
Yet it's worth noting that no one has accused the City Manager of showing a lack of oversight over Columbus Fire/EMS. That department comes under the "Public Safety Director," also known as the mayor. The Parks and Recreation Department doesn't. If you want to heal that "divide [of] the city," contact your nearest Charter Review Commission member.
I don't know what's inside the "evidence packet" which has brought no public action by District Attorney Julia Slater. I'd think Brother Love would know better than to simply stuff it with several issues of The Courier.
But what does it say when Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson hasn't passed the evidence packet along to the G.B.I. after several months? After all, she apparently passed part of Mark Shelnutt's letter to Atlanta quickly. Not quite with the speed of a shuttle bus to Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, but still....
There's one step Brother Love and other civil rights leaders still could take, but have not. They could borrow Mark Shelnutt's example, and file a civil suit against Columbus Fire/EMS and Chief Jeff Meyer. If they have the evidence packet, surely they could find some plaintiffs - but the G.B.I. doesn't do what Florida does and issue "silver alerts" for them.
P.S. I understand Brother Love's concern about "passing the buck" when it comes to laws being broken. Yet for some reason, not one House Republican has opened a hearing about whether President Obama really was born in Hawaii.
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