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February 9, 2007

MIGHTY CURIOUS, PARDNER, MIGHTY CURIOUS

The recent newsletter by the TWG, “Cattle Rustling or Code Enforcement” http://www.taxdogs.com/cattle012307.htm seems to have hit some nerves—including some in the Commissioners office as well as “Cowboy” Rogers, the Code Enforcement Officer.

For some reason, it has taken this long to get answers to our open records request. On January 31, 2007, the following items were sent to the County Manager with a copy to all Commissioners asking for documents and answers. We got answers on 2/8/07:

1. How did 911 and Mr. Rogers learn about the cows being out? Documents indicate that 2 or 3 calls were placed to 911on 1/3/07.

2. Copies of any memos, letters, reports that show how many 911 calls and/or calls to the Sheriff about Citizen XX having cows out previously and how these previous reports were handled and what was done about any cows being out. No documents produced.

3. Any memos, reports, etc. that have been filed and/or written in daily logs about this incident and any follow up memos, correspondence, etc. about this incident. The County Manager states there are no documents other than TWG requests for documents and one email from Comm. Bernard questioning what the policy says.. **It is hard to believe Code Enforcement has no written documentation about this incident

The following request was also sent through an open records request on January 31.

1. Where is the pasture located that the cows were taken to for holding/storage?
Down Clay Rd. on Lane Rd. at “Rutledge Farms” per invoice submitted to County for storage. Note: NO CONTRACT EXISTS FOR THIS “STORAGE” FACILITY.
2. Who owns the pasture that the cows were taken to for holding/storage? Per email from County Manager, Mr. Rutledge owns the pasture and is an acquaintance of the code enforcement officer.
3. What type trailer was used and who owns the trailer? No type of trailer was described, but County Manager indicated it was owned by Mr. Rutledge.
4. Was the trailer sanitized to ensure no disease or infection was transmitted and/or transported? No answer given.
5. How long were the cows held? According to Storage Invoice from Mr. Rutledge to the County,10 days, but charged for 8 days.
6. Was a vet called and asked to inspect the cows as required by State law? No answer.
7. When was Citizen XX informed the cows had been picked up and by whom? No answer.
8. What was the date and time that the cows were picked up? According to 911 records obtained, the call came in on 1/3/07early in the morning but weren’t picked up until afternoon.

According to an article in the Monticello News on 1/25/2007, the Code Enforcement officer had plenty of records concerning the cows on Hwy 300 owned by Thomas Cotton who was recently in Magistrate Court. His cows had been out numerous times, with 32 reports over the last YEAR (1/3/06 –12/29/06), and involved 56 man hours of getting cattle back in the pasture over the last YEAR.

Why was this case with cows out on Hwy 83 N so aggressively pursued? Why were the cows picked up, put in a borrowed trailer, and taken all the way across the county to a pasture of an acquaintance of the Code Enforcement officer? Again, how many times had these cows been out during the last month or the last year? Our sources indicate that this is the first time these cows were out, and the answers to the open records do not indicate anything other than one time. (However, it is possible we did not receive all applicable documents.)

TWG had been “corrected” earlier by a Commissioner who said the County Trailer from the landfill was used to haul the cows that were picked up. But after contacting the landfill, we were told that was impossible as the “cattle trailer” is used to hold tires, and it was full of old tires. (The purpose for the trailer at the landfill is to keep water from getting in the tires and thereby preventing mosquito infestations; however, the Code Enforcement officer has continued to try to get the cattle trailer for his use.)

Our Commissioners need to answer some questions about this incident—hopefully publicly. We have no knowledge of any public discussion by the Commissioners about a contract, animal storage, or anything similar to this issue. It seems the Code Enforcement officer is his own boss, determines what the rules/laws are, and is very aggressive in his pursuit of what he determines to be the law. Common sense never seems to enter into the equation. The TWG has written, spoken, and continues to state that one of the biggest problems in this county is SUPERVISION. The BOC is the final authority and ultimately responsible for what every employee does or doesn’t do while working for the County.

This is an agricultural county. Cows are a big part of that “agricultural”. The County Manager and the Code Enforcement officer need to use some Common Sense and remember they are not in a metropolitan county. Is the only goal here to write tickets and to produce revenue?

TWG
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