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Should the county emergency management agency office duties be a separate office?
 
Documents released on EMA, dog warden
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Wednesday, May 29, 2013 2:06 PM

 

By MELINDA KRICK • Progress Editor

On May 9, the Progress submitted written requests to the commissioners’ office for copies of any and all complaints received by the county regarding EMA service or activities over the past 12 months, and also for the dog warden’s office for the same time period. The commissioners had said that recent decisions to move both offices under the sheriff’s office were because of complaints but they wouldn’t discuss details, saying they were personnel issues.

On May 23, this office received 75 pages of material from the commissioners.

A total of seven pages regard the EMA office and director Randy Shaffer. Two deal with outside attorney fees regarding an alleged incident between Shaffer and another individual at a fire in January 2012. One page is a commissioners’ journal entry from December involving the radio tower at the old jail. One page is a commissioners’ journal entry from August in which Commissioner Tony Zartman “commended and complimented” Shaffer for his hard work during the June wind storm.

A third commissioners’ journal entry from April 2013 documenting the executive sessions with the EMA board and with Shaffer. The final two pages are copies of the EMA board’s motion recommending termination of the agreement.

The remaining 68 pages pertain to the dog shelter and dog warden Georgia Dyson.

Eight of these pages involve incidents more than a year ago, beyond the scope of the request. However, most were about an individual complaining about a problem with pit bulls in Latty.

Overall, the balance of the documented complaints involved a handful of situations; some were numerous complaints by the same individual and and others were the same location with more than one complainant.

Six pages note meetings between Dyson and the commissioners regarding routine items such as dog tag sales, vehicle quotes and purchasing a power washer.

Another six pages are commissioners’ journal entries about meetings with the public on issues such as “recent dealings with the dog warden” and “no immediate action” from the dog warden or sheriff’s office.

One page from Dyson details lists of calls and messages back and forth to one individual regarding two dogs reportedly left at a rental property.

Last September, the commissioners met with Dyson and discussed her policy on responding to calls left on the office answering machine. “The issue of ongoing complaints was addressed and Ms. Dyson agreed to work on a solution.”

Two pages detail a couple whose chicken coop had been destroyed in the June storm then several chickens were killed, by dogs, they believed. They said they had tried to contact the dog warden and received no response, and requested restitution for their loss. A letter from the commissioners referred to “unprofessional attitude” on Dyson’s part and promised “every effort is being made to ensure it doesn’t recur.”

At the same time, the commissioners received two letters from a woman and her daughter after an conversation with Dyson over two dogs and two horses. The family alleged the dog warden “got irate and angry” and complained about her treatment of them.

On Oct. 3, the commissioners issued a verbal warning against Dyson, citing “the continuing practice of not responding to calls in a timely fashion. Also, once communication is established, being disrespectful and belligerent.” For corrective action, they instructed her to “listen to answering machine daily and respond daily. Be polite and respectful.”

Dyson responded with a three-page statement with a supplemental report from veterinarian Dr. Melissa Bowman. Dyson denied that she had been rude or disrespectful. She said “it is difficult to tell people and get them to understand that I cannot handle all the after hour calls.” She further refuted some of the other issues and complaints.

Five different sheriff’s incident reports (totaling 24 pages) from Dec. 20 through Feb. 7 involve an ongoing situation of complaints of loose dogs at a preschool on Road 111. The complainant contacted the sheriff’s office several times about dogs being on the property. The deputy contacted the dog warden.

In the second incident report, the complainant asked about the status on the dogs, and felt the dog warden should have cited the dogs’ owners.

The third and fourth incident reports involve calls from the complainant regarding the dogs defecating on the preschool property. The first three reports were made in late afternoon.

In the fourth report, made at 8:14 a.m., the caller said there were three large black dogs that were aggressive. She was not satisfied with the actions of the dog warden.

The fifth and final report again was about the dogs defecating in the yard and the owner allegedly made an obscene gesture to the complainant. A deputy asked Dyson to issue a citation and “try and stop this continuing complaint.” According to county court records, the dog owner was given three citations for failure to confine dog and was fined on each count.

Four documents deal with letters from three Grover Hill residents in February pertaining to loose dogs and lack of response to calls to the dog warden. The letters were received during a meeting with one of the complainants.

Two pages are commissioners’ journal entries on meetings in early March with Dyson and newly hired assistant warden Ken Huckabaa. Both included references to requiring Dyson to keep logs of phone calls and providing copies for commissioners’ review on a weekly basis.

A March 27 journal entry reported on a meeting with Dyson in which she reported receiving 30 calls on one day.

The final three pages involve commissioners’ journal entries on May 1, in which they voted to transition the dog warden office to the sheriff’s office and terminating Dyson’s and Huckabaa’s employment, and a May 6 press conference covering EMA and dog shelter questions.