By John Carroll
EUFAULA, Alabama – A few days ago a friend of mine called and shared that his dog had been stolen. Marilyn, a beautiful 7 year old Pit Bull, had vanished out of his yard. The next day he got a call from a blocked number saying he would have to “pay a ransom to get her back“. We each got our thoughts together and weighed the option of getting the police involved or did we try to handle it ourselves. I work as a state licensed investigator part-time so the line between journalism and investigative work is never perfectly clear, but I like to always err toward having law enforcement involved when possible. Chris then called the police and filled out a report and found out how long it would take to get the phone carrier to get the blocked number revealed. This would take sworn statements, possibly a subpoena, and at best 30 some days from now we might know who had her. The police showed him pictures of various pit bulls they knew about and had recovered, but none were Marilyn. There was not much they could do. In a week we both knew Marilyn would be dead. If she were going to be saved, it would be through our efforts alone.
First it was decided that Chris would pay any price to get Marilyn back; the rest was obvious – we had to catch these guys and reveal them in a way they could not hide behind lawyers, or police departments that refuse to give the public mugshots of those arrested. Clearly, the public needed to know who was doing this and how they were doing it. That knowledge alone was the best way to prevent it from happening to others. We also both knew that this was a pattern in the Eufaula area that we had heard of in recent months, and no one thus far had been able to stop it. Marilyn was the latest victim. Our plan was simple: step 1 get Marilyn back and step 2 expose the people behind it if possible. Step 3, make it very clear that there would be consequences for behavior like this. Chris Wallace was not a client for my firm’s investigative work. He is a friend and a damn close one at that, so this was personal.
Dognapping at first sounds comical, but trust me, it is not, and for those unaware there are several groups of young men who are riding around Barbour County, and if they see a dog that looks like one they can use for fighting purposes, or what appears to be an expensive dog, they will catch it and take it home. They then use the very information on the collars and tags good owners religiously have to contact their owners. If the dog does not have a temperament for fighting in dog fights then they call the owners from a blocked number. They won’t give their names, nor location, but they will tell you they have your dog, and then ask you what it’s worth for you to get it back. If you make the mistake of saying 20 bucks or so, they hang up, let you think about it and like clockwork they will call back the next day.
Most pet owners, after assuming their dog is gone forever, then say “yep I’ll pay you a reward, just tell me how much”. Its not cheap. Marilyn for example they demanded 170 dollars for Marilyn. The excuse they give is bogus, “We bought the dog to fight it, paid a $150 for her and now we just want our money back”. Deceitfully, they never say they found the dog, they just want to get the dog back to its rightful owner but don’t want to be out the money. Of course the obvious doesn’t matter to them – dog fighting is against the law. Nor can they ever actually describe from whom or where they bought it.
If you are the pet owner, you can pay the cash or you can lose your dog. It’s that simple. No one can help you quickly enough to save your pet.
So we made the decision to pay the ransom but try to bust these guys and reveal them and hope the district attorney can do something with the footage and our sworn statements. I tracked their blocked numbers down and determined who they were and where they and likely Marilyn was. I then put them under surveillance as Chris prepared to meet them. By the time they got to the meeting point at Lakepoint, we knew who they were, who their families were, where they lived, previous arrest records, drivers licenses and the vehicle they were traveling on. We purposely did not want conflict but were of course prepared.
The greatest single weapon we had on our side was, we knew who they were and where they slept at night and all of their immediate family members.
After a quick confrontation and discussion of those pertinent facts everything went calm. The clips below reflect that. My suggestion was to these guys we all make mistakes in life but they needed to go and speak with Detective Donald Brown and then maybe their pastor- be honest and stop what they are doing to innocent pet owners and ask for help in reenforcing that decision. If not, then as only one Barbour County boy can say to another, you and I are going get really well acquainted with one another.
Hopefully our decision to make this public and reveal how these scams work will help the community be more aware and pressure public officials to put a stop to this. And educate those in how to prevent this from happening to their dogs.
And Marilyn, most importantly ….WELCOME HOME !
BILLY BEASLEY ATTEMPTS TO BLOCK EFFORTS TO PROVIDE LOW COST SERVICES
By John Carroll
MONTGOMERY, Alabama – After months of telling folks across his district that he will support a bill that yesterday came up for a vote on the health services committee, Beasley reversed his position. He voted NO on a bill to protect non-profit clinics that spay and neuter animals at low cost for the public that he had publicly promised his constituents he would support. By voting NO on House Bill 141, what Beasley has done is take a clear step to insure that poor and rural people who cannot afford to pay high veterinary prices and will not get their animals spayed, neutered or vaccinated for rabies. Despite Beasely’s NO VOTE and unexplainable stand against the bill, it will still come to a full senate vote. Efforts to contact Beasley by many angry constituents across the county were unsuccessful but BCR reporter Robbie Pelham spoke to him late today and asked what his explanation for his no vote was. Beasley stated that
“there must be some confusion because, I have been opposed to this bill for the past four consecutive sessions”.
However…. we decided to carefully check Mr Beasley’s voting claim. The past time this bill, or one like it with identical language on this subject, and we found that on House bill 188 he voted YES. On house bill 156, he again voted YES. Both voting roll calls from the Senate are attached here. On house bill 17 he did not vote. Here are the linked official roll call votes from the Senate.
Next Mr Beasley tried to explain to Robbie Pelham the two main reasons he voted against the bill this week.
- “Animals receive the best care possible”,
- He then claimed Ron Welch, current Alabama Vet. board president had called him and stated that “ all 501 C3 spay and neuter clinics in Alabama have violations in regards to board standards”.
Interestingly though on the first point, we found with just a little research, that Beasley had access to in his own Senate files, evidence to the contrary, as the Federal Trade Commission wrote a strong letter to him and others on his committee stating that the,
”FTC staff believe the bill is likely to benefit consumers by increasing consumer access to, and choices among, spay and neuter services for their pets,” the letter stated. “In general, competition is enhanced when there are fewer restrictions on the ways in which professionals organize their businesses, consistent with consumer safeguards.”…the letter additionally stated that …the bill promotes competition among veterinarians and provides appropriate safeguards for the well-being of animals.”
What is further hard to understand about Beasley’s statement regarding care is that a licensed veterinarian is at all times providing the procedure. “There is no difference in care”, is what a professor of veterinary medicine and long time family friend told us at Auburn University’s Veterinary School of Medicine.
“The only difference is who’s name is on the deed to the building or business entity that pays the Veterinarian. So for Beasley’s concern to be valid he would have to assume that one licensed veterinarian is not doing the same job as another. Pure Nonsense, we all have the same rules to abide by”. He suggested Beasley and the others who voted no on the committee “quit listening to lobbyists and actually use common sense for once and visit the clinics and speak with some of the vets who volunteer their time there”.
Nikki Wyatt of the Wiregrass Spay and Neuter Alliance, who have provided low cost spay and neuters to nearly 40,000 animals the past several years, echoed this belief,
“what is really sad is not once have any of these guys even visited our clinic. You would think someone who votes on this bill would actually take the time to visit a clinic and see first-hand what it is they are voting on.“
So we called Ron Welch to ask him if Beasley’s second statement was true, he told us he “HAD NOT TOLD BEASLEY THIS, NOR COULD HE DISCUSS ANY CASES THE BOARD HAD PENDING” with a legislator like Beasley. Interestingly when we called the Alabama Veterinary Board we found out from Tammy Cargile, Executive Director of the Board that “they no knowledge of this statement to be remotely true”.
This bill, according to Nicki Wyatt of the Wiregrass Spay and Neuter Alliance, will end up costing the state an incalculable amount of money in the long run having to build more animal control shelters and euthanize unwanted animals. In short, we here at the Barbour County Reporter feel Mr. Beasley should LISTEN TO HIS CONSTITUENTS AND RECONSIDER THIS VOTE, and its especially ironic because we know that HE HAD HIS OWN PETS SPAYED AND NEUTERED AT ONE OF THE SPAY AND NEUTER CLINICS. Now though, after being pressured by lobbyists, he has decided to block this service for others in Barbour County to get the same for their pets that he did.
Further Beasley knows well the controversy in Barbour County dealing with local veterinarian Tommy Horne, where he has admitted to euthanizing animals in a procedure, the State of Alabama’s Licensing Board is investigating, that violates the AVMA guidelines. Animal rights groups are pressing for Horne’s prosecution on allegations that this act constitutes animal cruelty and is a violation of state law as well and that he additionally is in violation of the Alabama Veterinary Practice Act. In our opinion, private clinics across the state, often have a vested financial interest in preventing pet owners from having access to non-profit spay and neuter clinics. If unwanted animals have no check on the local stray populations then they give veterinarians a constant stream of inbound animals to euthanize assuring a steady cash flow.
Further influencing this issue, one state lobbyist privately told us, is the pure profit margin these guys are making on these services. They are spending a lot of money lobbying people like Beasley to help them preserve their cash flow and unfortunately its working. People need to get the word out about what these guys are really doing.
Nikki Wyatt said something about this that definitely caught our attention,
“a medium sized dog can come to us and be spayed or neutered for around $ 40, and the procedure is performed by a licensed veterinarian. However, if you carry that same animal to a privately owned veterinary clinic you have typically have to pay over $ 200 to $ 300 dollars. Its pretty obvious then to figure out what this is all about. Legislators need to make their decisions based on facts and not input from others who have selfish interests.The benefit is that if we spay or neuter 40 K animals, the amount of unwanted animals that this has prevented is in the hundreds of thousands. These animals then don’t have to be euthanized. And our customers are not those that could afford a private clinic in the first place”.
April Tew, county coordinator for AVRAL (Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation), said in her opinion,
“somebody must have got to him, it appears that he was redirected as he has always supported this bill. It makes many of us wonder if its related to the legal controversy with the city of eufaula regarding animals euthanization and disposal that they now face. You have to ask yourself that if the bordering states of Mississippi and Georgia both have this type of clinics allowed by law. Why can’t we ?
Renee Klein, who heads PAL of Barbour County, and is actively involved in assisting rural pet owners who cant afford to have their animals spayed and neutered, were among dozens who were present at a Texasville Fire Department dinner a few weeks ago that heard Beasley clearly promise he would support this bill. Klein said late yesterday,
I’m deeply saddened and don’t have adequate words to express my opinion on Beasley voting this way.
We hope and pray that Billy Beasley will change his vote when the bill comes to a full floor vote and does his homework as opposed to listening to lobbyists who have only their clients financial interest at heart. The people of Alabama deserve better.
The City Council held its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday evening. Mayor, Jack Tibbs and Superintendent, Eddie Tyler recognized four Teachers of the Year from their respective schools. The group included Lisa Salter from Eufaula Primary, Laurel Motley from Eufaula Elementary, Lisa Johnson from AMMS, and John Savage from Eufaula High School.
After honoring the outstanding community educators, the mayor recognized Lt. Nadine Brown as she recently retired from the Eufaula Police Department after serving the city since 1991. She was presented with an encased service weapon and badge to commemorate her time spent on the job.
Next Tibbs revisited the recent allegations of mishandling of euthanized animals by the city. He stated that he had personally concluded, after his investigation, that there was no evidence of inappropriate burial of animals by animal control. He then said that all euthanized animals were and are still taken to the Coffee County Landfill. He referred to their website as corroboration that they do indeed accept deceased animals. “That puts that to rest,” he said. He also added that a board member from the Alabama Animal Control Association had reviewed the city’s animal control policies and would have an official report within 2 weeks.
He concluded his comments by announcing that Weedon Field had passed its licensure for another year and he noted that Councilmen Johnny Knight and Lucious Cobb had been thanked by Martha J Jackson for their work in securing the rehabilitation grant for Dudley Quarters.
After a story questioning the city council policy changes that allowed the city to deny him the opportunity to address the council, TOPS founder, Pastor Kenny Glasgow, was given permission to speak on Monday. Although he was unable to attend, Rachel Smith, President of the Barbour County Division of TOPS, addressed the council in his place and asked for suspended Police Chief Ralph Conner’s training file, employee file, and SOP’s on some procedures within the Eufaula Police Department. She also asked the council if Conner would continue to be paid since his grand jury hearing has been postponed? Council President Bob Powers responded with a simple, “Yes.”
By John Carroll
BAKER HILL – To our knowledge, there have been few animal rights case prosecuted in Barbour County, but this changed in Judge Matt Horne’s district court early Thursday morning. Baker Hill resident Jeffery Lovett plead guilty to cruelty to animal charges connected to his dog who became known as Christian. On a hot afternoon last August, Christian ventured out into the road and was hit by a local fireman. The fireman promptly stopped and did what he could to help the injured dog, pulling him out of the road, and notified its owner Jeffery Lovett and offered his apologies and any assistance he could. Mr Lovett told him it was ok, to leave him, and that he would take care of him. But heres the thing that makes this unfortunate incident become a gruesome one…Lovett didn’t take care of his injured dog, he left him there….still alive.
For the next several days Christian was left in 90 plus degree heat to suffer beyond all description while struggling to hang on to life and claw his way back home. His owner, Jeffery Lovett, shockingly looked on indifferently day after day and did nothing to help him. Two days after Christian was initially hit, a city of Baker Hill employee saw the suffering dog and called the Baker Hill police department. Chief Rock Lightner visited with Lovett personally and ordered him to “take care of the dog or take him to the Veterinarian”, and again, Lovett promised he would promptly take care of this.
Understand that Christian at this point had both legs broken and still possibly could have been saved, even though being exposed to the heat and without food or water for two days put him at grave risk. But after having been notified twice of his dog being injured and still alive, Jeffery Lovett did the unthinkable…he left him to suffer even more beside the road. Christian fought and hung on to life best he could knowing only as a loyal dog would know….someone would come help him, but tragically they did not.
Five full days after Christian being hit, having both his legs broken and left alive as his owner let him suffer, the police department was informed that a dog was injured beside the road – it was Christian. Renee Klein of the local non-profit P.A.L ( Pet Assistance League) was then notified and successfully located the injured dog.
Mrs Klein first called the Sheriff’s Department where she was advised that “they did not handle animal problems” and they promptly hung up on her. Klein, ever persistent for the cause of an injured animal, then called several deputies she knew personally on their cell phones until one agreed to help her. After a short search she found Christian, who at this point was still clinging to life, and had crawled into a culvert to escape the hot sun and buzzards. With assistance from the the Baker Hill fire department, she was able to retrieve Christian and then transported him to Veterinarian Dr. Ray Arnold in Abbeville.
Dr Arnold’s statement speaks for itself.
“The dog was covered in ants, maggots, fly eggs, and dirt. It was emaciated, dehydrated, and suffering from exposure to the heat, most likely for several days. It had complete fractures of both legs, one of which was rotated 180 degrees. It was obvious this dog had been abandoned and was beyond medical intervention”.
Christian was then humanely euthanized and now Mrs Klein, furious at how this could have happened in the first place, took the evidence directly to district attorney Ben Reeves who resisted prosecuting the case as his office was “unclear what laws were even applicable”.
But Klein quickly pointed out the Alabama Criminal code § 13A-11-14 (1975), which states,
(a) A person commits the crime of cruelty to animals if, except as otherwise authorized by law, he or she intentionally or recklessly:
(1) Subjects any animal to cruel mistreatment; or (2) Subjects any animal in his or her custody to cruel neglect; or (3) Kills or injures without good cause any animal belonging to another.
Klein argued even further that another section of the criminal code might apply that would make this a felony,
(a) A person commits the crime of cruelty to a dog or cat in the first degree if he or she intentionally tortures any dog or cat or skins a domestic dog or cat or offers for sale or exchange or offers to buy or exchange the fur, hide, or pelt of a domestic dog or cat. Cruelty to a dog or cat in the first degree is a Class C felony
However the district attorney’s office was uncooperative. Klein, disappointed, was told at one point that “the district attorney’s office had more important things to do”.
But Klein did not give up and she kept returning to the district attorney’s office armed with police reports, print outs of the applicable law and 8 x 10 enlarged photos of the dog and his condition. In one of her documents there was a clear statement by the Baker Hill Police Chief Rock Lightner that warrants would be issued. She informed the district attorney’s office that she was not going to go away and insisted the laws of Alabama be enforced. One long time investigator in the office even told the district attorney she (Klein) “had done all their work for them on this case why not prosecute it”. The District Attorney, Ben Reeves, then reluctantly agreed to consider it. A few days later his office called Klein and said bluntly “they were not going to go through with it”. Klein then went to David Nix’s office where she got no further.
Klein merely wanted the legal system to work, and she felt like the district attorney’s office had an ethical obligation to follow and enforce the laws of Alabama even when it came to animals. That simply had not happened. “The laws are what they are and no one has the right to selectively enforce them“.
So Klein then boldly decided to sign the arrest warrant for Lovett herself and continued to press forward as the law was clearly on her side. And despite the district attorney’s office lack of cooperation, Thursday in Judge Horne’s district court, James Lovett was convicted of cruelty to animals and received a suspended sentence of 30 days in jail, ordered to pay restitution, pay the veterinarians bill, and to pay attorney’s and court costs.
Hopefully this case does two things in Barbour county.
1) A clear message is sent that you cannot abuse and be cruel to animals. If so, you will be prosecuted.
2) The district attorney’s office hopefully will reconsider how they will approach cases like this in the future.
By John Carroll
EUFAULA – Barbour County is one of three counties in the state where there are two divisions, and yesterday one of them, the Eufaula division, convened a secret grand jury. All grand juries are interesting, but this one may be especially so if the shooting death of Cameron Massey, by Eufaula Police Chief Ralph Conner, is part of it.
If you have never served on a grand jury, it’s hard to understand, but it is one of the cornerstones of our justice system. It’s also very interesting; here is a basic overview. Basically, Judge Burt Smithart, our circuit judge, is responsible for assembling it. He picks 18 people and then sends them to a special room in the courthouse where he charges them with what they must do in considering whether to indict those accused of crimes. All the proceedings are held in secret; no one is allowed then or later to speak about what they witness and discuss. When I say secret, I mean it, and the system works that way. It’s not like some of our courthouse trials where what attorneys say in private between each other amusingly reaches the Dime store before they go there for lunch. This is really secret; no one talks outside that room.
In many ways this is the cornerstone of our justice system, although it’s one most of us never see or know about, where victims, law enforcement and witnesses of violence are all put before a group of total strangers to share what they know and be questioned.
The person in charge of deciding what to present to these 18 Barbour Countians is our district attorney Ben Reeves. For those of you that don’t know him, Reeves is interesting. The old saying is that a district attorney can indict a ham sandwich and in most of the judicial districts, especially those in south Alabama, the District Attorney is known for being forceful and aggressive in grand juries and usually gets whatever indictments he has made up his mind he wants. Reeves though is very different, and we should all be thankful for this. Not that our system is perfect , by any means, but Mr. Ben’s theory is that the grand jury is like a independent test. If the jury, among themselves, cannot examine the evidence carefully and come to a conclusion that the individual accused should be indicted, then he isn’t about to waste taxpayer money to present it at trial. And this isn’t just talk. On the grand jury I served on a few years ago, several cases were “no billed”, not because we didn’t think the individual was guilty, but we didn’t feel there was enough hard evidence for an indictment to be issued. Ben Reeves, to his credit, is more a arbiter of this and encourages the jury to follow their instincts, ask hard questions, and have an independent voice. Now when I say it’s secret, it is to a degree. If you are a deputy or local policeman and you have to come to the jury on a case where you made an arrest, then you know what they are considering. People talk, rumor spreads at light speed in this county, but generally this is a rare example where we will all come together and respect the system.
Mr. Ben, as well, has his prejudices; one of them interestingly is the type of person he often asks the jury to pick to lead it. Mr. Ben likes school teachers and a retired school teacher he will say, is a excellent choice as they have had to deal with different groups and types of people and are generally pretty organized. My experience with my mother being one is this is true. They have a special knack for letting everyone have a equal voice from their classroom days. This is not the place for a drill sergeant – bully type. The group then selects a foreman/woman and more often than not follow Mr. Ben’s advice. You are then secluded in a room on the 2nd floor of the courthouse . All 18 of you sit around a big table and you see what Barbour County really is all about, different races, farmers, log truck drivers, poor , rich, often a preacher and a few retired folks. You get the option to be paid by the D.A. for your time or you can donate it as public service. Most in a act of community service choose to donate their time.
The district attorney then will describe a case that’s being presented in a unbiased sort of neutral way and leaves the room. You examine all the evidence and interview various witnesses, and slowly the law enforcement officers involved come in one by one and tell their story of what they saw, why they think what they do, and give all the details of their investigation.
Each of them can be questioned by you as a jury member, which is unusual (the citizen having the absolute power to quiz a cop at will) but that’s how it works. The policemen and deputies of course are unusually nice. You as a jury member, have the power to make them look bad or good and determine whether their work was justified. It’s amazing how nice and respectful some of them become in this setting.
Is there doubt, yes, are their arguments about who thinks what, what evidence really proves or doesn’t , of course. But in a rare instance where our government actually works, democracy is reduced down to a straight up or down vote of a small group of common citizens who are shielded from all outside influence. Is there enough evidence, and do you trust it to think this person did what they are accused of? This is where Ben Reeves shines; he does not inject his opinion, he does not attempt to sway your vote for law enforcement or against it. It’s up to you, what you and your other fellow members have come to believe through your hard questioning of those involved. This is rare and we all should highly value this aspect of our community. Ben will just say it’s his job but that’s not so; he upholds his oath in a way that few anywhere do. I have witnessed it personally and in fact it motivated me to go to law school.
Some of these votes are unanimous, yes, Johnny stole a car, Suzi saw him take it, and Officer Smith chased him down and pulled him over, simple straightforward pattern of facts that indicate guilt. These cases are “true billed” if the majority of the 18 vote yes for an indictment. This then translates into an arrest warrant that gets served on the suspected guilty party and they then start the process towards a trial (that will be our next article).
But not all work this way, in fact they often do not. On the grand jury I served on, which I can’t discuss what we considered, maybe 1/2 of the cases were not considered strong enough for an indictment. In some cases we didn’t trust the evidence or testimony of the police, or the witnesses all saw different things and they lacked consistency. In some, we thought they were guilty but didn’t have enough evidence to move forward with an indictment. Many cases like this we really wanted to vote for a indictment, but Ben Reeves is adamant, if they don’t have what you think it takes as a matter of law then “no-bill it”, “make them do their homework so to speak and come up with more or move on”. Everyone has to be treated fairly and with the same standard applied in this process.
Most don’t realize it, but this is one of the most important processes that ever takes place in our community and most people never have a clue about how it works. Although what a grand jury considers, is by its very nature not good, crimes, the system works, and the people in that day or two when they are locked into a secret room have absolute power over their fellow citizens. Ben Reeves and Judge Burt Smithart let the system work, and are guardians to preserve its integrity. Barbour county is historically used to getting less than it deserves from its politicians, but in this case we often get way more ,and anyone who has served on a grand jury here I suspect would agree. What those people do, sitting at the table in an unmarked room at the second floor of our courthouses, who more often than not did not know each other before this process, make decisions among themselves on how the system then will work. In so many ways the process of justice, in our evolving imperfect system of democracy, begins at that table. Common everyday citizens determine the outcome of freedom or possible imprisonment for others.
This grand jury will potentially have a lot of the county’s young people awaiting its decisions. In a few days, possibly tomorrow, depending on the workload, the outcome of it will be made public. It’s entirely possible the Cameron Massey case will be one of those decisions. We will not know for sure until the the indictments are officially signed in the District Attorney’s office; then it will be made public.
The core question in the Massey case will be do you believe there was some compelling reason that the police chief had the right to shoot and kill young unarmed Cameron Massey in an October 15th traffic stop. One thing is certain – there are only two people who know this answer for certainty and one is deceased. Chief Conner, the other one, is in a difficult place, as if he broke the law. He could face manslaughter or even murder charges. But 18 people sitting at that table may very well determine his fate this morning. It is also possible they may delay it and convene a special grand jury for this case alone.
What is known is Cameron was unarmed, did not have a history of violence, and was allegedly involved in the marijuana business. Does this make him a bad or immoral person? Of course not, to say otherwise is ignorant. In fact, even among law enforcement, Massey was very well liked and considered a kind and gentle person. But it is also fair to say narcotics trafficking is dangerous business.
Chief Conner, reportedly acting on a tip about drugs being transported, strangely by-passed his narcotics unit and several seasoned officers who knew Massey and the community well. He then allegedly organized a traffic stop just north of town and quickly became involved in a confrontation. Massey was a passenger in the vehicle, that as the driver, exited and raised his arms as a policeman approached him, the car then reportedly started to slowly roll forward having been put in neutral, not park. There are conflicting accounts on what happened next, but the result was clear, the officer attempting to arrest the driver tried to stop the car, slipped and felt threatened. At the same time reportedly, Massey as well, attempted to stop the car by making a quick movement with one hand to jam the gearshift lever into park, and the officer felt threatened and fired at Massey. Then the Chief fired his weapon fatally injuring the unarmed Massey. The chief reportedly could not immediately explain why he had fired his weapon, and we do know he had a body camera on him that recorded the incident.
I want to remind the public that Police officers have what is called qualified immunity in such circumstances which in lay person’s terms, as best I understand it as a lowly law student, they have the right to make a mistake in the line of duty and are protected from judgment of the legal system. To get this though, they have to believe they, or others nearby, are in grave danger. If so, in short they are authorized to use deadly force, even if they make a mistake.
The question with Massey’s case may well come down to was the Chief’s shooting an instinctive reaction to the other officer’s shots. If so, he could face severe consequences. However, if he can make the argument he felt threatened; then it will likely be ruled justifiable. Understand though cell phone records that have been shared with us indicate that Massey was on the phone speaking with Mayor Jack Tibbs allegedly about police corruption in that moment. What Massey told Tibbs about the officers who were about to shoot him only the Mayor and the driver of that car now know. A prominent defense attorney intimately familiar with the case, told us, that “this conversation is likely what got him killed“; however, there are those in law enforcement who think it may just be a tragic mistake.
“A police chief“, one local experienced drug task force member, said, “is not the type of guy that needs to be out making drug arrests, that’s just plain stupid. Guys that are trained for that, and execute these searches and stops daily are the safest way to do it. When you take a guy like Conner, who basically has manned a desk for decades, and put him out in the field in a tactical situation, then you are going to have chaos. Leave it to those who are trained for it and let them do their job“, he said.
This is not the first time that Chief Ralph Conner has shot an unarmed young black man. In an incident in Montgomery Alabama, when Conner was a police investigator, he shot Bobby Joe Sales (age 23) in the back while he was walking away from him. Conner claimed “he was reaching for a gun”, but other other officers on the scene denied this and a weapon was never found. Sales later died from complications related to the shooting. When we asked Mayor Jack Tibbs a few weeks ago about this, and discussed how Conner was used as an example at a Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government’s Criminal Justice Program’s presentation as one the worst examples of police violence in America, he was unaware of this and told me personally , “I was told he was not responsible for this and the victim didn’t die“. Numerous news stories including a New York Times article are available though with a simple Google search. In the presentation before thousands it was noted ;
“Bobby Joe Sales, 23, was killed in Montgomery last spring, when one officer shot the unarmed man in the back and another rammed his fallen body with a car. Officer Ralph Conner said he thought Sales was reaching for a gun. Conner’s cousin, officer Edward Spivey, allegedly then hit Sales’ body with his car. One of the officers, Spivey (Conner’s cousin), was later accused in a separate case of ramming his can into an unarmed man who had already been shot. In the Taylor case, Spivey used a lock-blade knife, illegal under state law”.
Perhaps as early as this morning, it will all come down to an interpretation by 18 people. The district attorney may recuse himself from the case, and if he does, there are two options; one a special prosecutor will come down from the Attorney General’s office and present it, or Reeves may reach out to Boyd Whigham a former District Attorney to do it for him. Either way, it will be presented as unbiased as possible to the jury.
What they will hear will be a combination of the officers’ testimonies, why they pulled Massey ’s car over in the first place and some background information on their active drug investigation on Massey, and then they will watch the tape of the shooting from the camera on Conners uniform. Also the Alabama Bureau of Investigation have conducted an investigation into the shooting so they will be privy to that report. It is not known, but rumored, that they deemed it justifiable, although in some reports they do not actually reach a firm conclusion. However, it’s important to remember the ABI does not often investigate the whole incident, they are primarily focused on what the officer’s accounts of the incident are, and whether these are truthful, and does the forensic evidence back their account up. They at times, as in the shooting death of unarmed Patrick O’Humphrey in Headland two years ago, will not even speak with eyewitnesses; they instead are focused on the officers. So “justifiable” in their report, may not mean the same thing to a jury or the public even if they back up Chief Conner’s accounts.
What the grand jury will likely not see is a disturbing video that has surfaced of these officers involved threatening Massey in the weeks before. We have watched this video and it appears to a be an argument over a pizza where one of the officers involved was conducting surveillance on Massey and a pizza was comically delivered to him in his car while he thought no one knew what he was doing. He then angrily confronts Massey and promises to “get him if it’s the last thing he does and uses racial epithets.”
Two people we have known for years in city government that we spoke with, on the strict condition of anonymity, tell us that in the weeks that followed they were warned to stay away from Massey as they (the officers involved) were going to make him pay”.
1) Fact is Massey sold good weed, and whether we want to hear it or not, people in our community of all races, incomes and position of power in our community smoke it. They trusted and did business with Massey.
2) Second fact is, two weeks later after the pizza incident, Massey was shot to death while unarmed and on the phone with the Mayor of Eufaula allegedly informing him of police corruption.
3) Third fact, one of the shooters was the recipient of the pizza that made the threats.
What I would like to stress to the young people in our community today is the validity of the grand jury system. Try to understand how it works and learn to understand it and trust in it. I don’t know what the outcome will be, or even if the Massey shooting will be presented, but if it is presented, and the outcome is that the shooting is justified, then the battle for justice is what will take place moving forward in a federal wrongful death lawsuit. Do not be angry at a group of 18 men and women who are just like you and me or at our district attorney. They have to make a decision based only on the facts that are presented to them and this will not be the final word, nor will it include all the facts of the case. It is a necessary step in the process, and a good one that we all should be proud of, not something to focus anger or distrust upon.
Clarification: the fact of the grand jury convening is not secret, but the contents of it and the cases they are considering is.
BAKERHILL – Earlier today the State of Alabama requested that the Bakerhill Rescue Squad turn in its license to provide EMS services in Barbour County which they then agreed to voluntarily. I spoke with Dennis Blair at the Department of Health’s Office of EMS services and he confirmed this just moments ago. “Officially they are no more , we hope somehow it can be reorganized“, and stated “the District Attorney’s office or the Attorney General’s office will be who follows up on what has happened, not us“.
Two members of the squad we spoke with this morning told us they are working the best they can for members of the squad to regroup while James Register reportedly will still will not return calls or cooperate with authorities. It is alleged nearly $ 600,000 dollars is missing from accounts and the service ground to halt with ambulances in various states of disrepair with no funds to repair them. Register alleges the squad has been under a Medicaid audit and the government will not pay the squad, but no one at Medicaid could confirm this. The cities of Clayton and Eufaula have agreed to send ambulances to the area left with out coverage temporarily. However two of County’s largest industrial employers Bledsoe Mining and the Chicken plant are left in the area without coverage and irresponsibly were given no notice by Register. “Dispatch times will be lengthier”, a individual involved in Eufaula’s unit told us, “how long its hard to say it depends on the demand when the call comes in. Any way you look at it though its going to be pretty tough“.
The individual members of the squad we spoke with are determined to form a new service , some who still have not been paid by Register for previous month’s work.”The guys and community just deserve better”, one said.
I want to make it very clear to our readers the individual members of the rescue squad ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE for this and are doing everything they possibly can (without pay) to put together a new unit. WE STRONGLY hope District Attorney Ben Reeves will step in to help them and most importantly we get this community the proper EMS coverage it needs ASAP. A industrial accident at either of these two facilities of any scale would be a major problem.
By Robbie Pelham
EUFAULA – As has been recently reported, Mayor Jack Tibbs and the Eufaula City Council have implemented an agenda procedure change that will no longer allow citizens to freely attend city council meeting and address the council publicly. Now they face a federal lawsuit that will seek class action status with hundreds of local citizens who are outraged. The new policy released by City Hall states that individuals wishing to address the City Council during regular meetings must submit a written request, including the topic and any questions, two business days prior to the meeting, to mayor’s assistant, Teri Bush or city clerk/treasurer, Joy White.
My initial response to reading the changes was positive contingent upon the city providing clarification on a few points concerning how this new procedure would be implemented. I was fully supportive of the council being better prepared to address the concerns of citizens in a knowledgeable manner that would improve the council-citizen relationship. I emailed the city four questions in an effort to provide them the opportunity, in the interest of fairness, to address potential points of contention with the procedure changes. I have listed the exact questions below that I sent to the city.
1) Is the city willing to go on record and say that, under no circumstances, will anyone ever be denied the opportunity to address the council regardless of their topic? If this is indeed the city’s position, what mechanism has been created to ensure that this policy is followed explicitly?
2) Is the city at all concerned that the additional emails, deadlines, or phone calls will, in any way, deter community members from bringing their concerns before the council whereas before they needed only to show up and speak?
3) What will be the policy of the council in the event that someone who has not been informed of these changes attempts to address the council, particularly in the first few weeks since implementation?
4) Since the officials that enacted this policy are elected, did they seek feedback from the community before deciding to go forward with this policy? If, in the immediate future, the policy changes are met with negative resistance, is the city willing to suspend the policy until such time that a public referendum can be conducted?
City Council meetings are governed by State of Alabama law and City of Eufaula Code of Ordinances, specifically section 2 (These laws are long-standing and a matter of public record.)
The City Council members are the only ones specifically authorized to speak at Council meetings, and even their speech is limited by the Ordinance and Robert’s Rules of Order.
Others must be granted permission to address the City Council.
While City Council meetings are open to the public, they are not intended to be a meeting for public or individual discourse. The primary purpose of the City Council meeting is to conduct the business of the City, as presented on its Agenda, in accordance with the law and rules of order, and with the primary focus being on the interests of the City as a whole.
As has been true in the past, the best way to address City matters is through City Hall. The Mayor and City Staff handle day-to-day running of the City. Matters that require action by the City Council or other City boards, are coordinated through City Staff and the public at their own discretion, usually depending on their work, travel, and other obligations.
To be clear, the City of Eufaula Code of Ordinances Section 2-61 states that:
“No person, not a member of the city council, shall be allowed to address the city council while in session without permission of the presiding officer.”
Already, the city has answered my first question unfortunately by their discriminatory actions. Two people, Jo Vaughn and Pastor Kenny Sharpton Glasgow, were denied the opportunity to be placed on the agenda and address the council concerning the recently reported mishandling of stray animals here in Eufaula. Conversely, another community member, whom we spoke with, wishing to speak to the council regarding a separate topic was, in fact, granted permission. City Council President Bob Powers enforced this new policy with an iron fist at the last city council meeting as he explicitly prevented Mayor Jack Tibbs the opportunity to answer a question posed by an audience member that had been denied being placed on the agenda. Disgusted by this level of arbitrary censorship, Mrs. Vaughn and others abruptly left the meeting.
The idea that the City Council, under no supervision, can arbitrarily pick and choose whom they will allow and whom they will deny the opportunity to publicly address the council sets an alarming precedent that the city has not approached in recent history.
We sought legal direction concerning this matter and were directed to several state and federal court decisions that may be applicable. In its 1990 decision, White v. City of Norwalk, The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated that “Citizens have an enormous First Amendment interest in directing speech about public issues to those who govern their city.” Because the city, at this point, still reserves a public comment time for “approved” citizens to address the council, this time slot constitutes what is referred to by the court as a limited public forum. Multiple courts have held that restrictions on speech in these types of forums must be “viewpoint neutral.”
In City of Madison Joint School District No. 8 v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (1976), the U.S. Supreme Court said,
“The participation in public discussion of public business cannot be confined to one category of interested individuals. To permit one side of a debatable public question to have a monopoly in expressing its views to the government is the antithesis of constitutional guarantees. Whatever its duties as an employer, when the board sits in public meetings to conduct public business and hear the views of citizens, it may not be required to discriminate between speakers on the basis of their employment, or the content of their speech.”
In a concurring opinion, Supreme Court Justice, William J. Brennan wrote “[o]nce a forum is opened up to assembly or speaking by some groups, government may not prohibit others from assembling or speaking on the basis of what they intend to say.”
An Ohio appeals court wrote that “The public nature of the legislative process and the right of citizens to participate in and voice their opinions about that process are at the heart of democratic government. The government may not impose viewpoint-based restrictions on expression in a limited public forum unless those restrictions serve a compelling state interest and are narrowly drawn to achieve that end.”
We spoke at length with Pastor Kenny Sharpton Glasgow, who has a branch of his ministry, The Ordinary People Society in Eufaula, as it appears to be who the council wanted to prevent from speaking. Pastor Glasgow represents the Cameron Massey family as their pastoral advocate and believes the shooting death of an unarmed young Massey, as he was reportedly on the telephone speaking with Mayor Jack Tibbs about Police corruption, by Police Chief Ralph Conner, “was a criminal act and should be investigated as a homocide. “Their misguided attempt to suppress the public voice”, said Glasgow, “is against the law and the real reason is painfully obvious, they want to suppress all public input on getting to the bottom of what really happened to Cameron Massey. They cannot be allowed to take away the public’s right of free speech, not here, not in America”.
As a result of this closer look at the City Council’s new policy, the feedback we have received would suggest that city officials should seriously consider rescinding these new policy changes and restore the fairness and courtesy that has traditionally been afforded all citizens of Eufaula. We will be closely following this story and will update our readers when, or if, the city responds, and of those who join in the lawsuit. We also intend to start an online petition so that the collective voices of our citizenry may be heard by those whom we have elected to represent us.
By John Carroll
In the past several days worried members of the Baker Hill rescue squad have contacted us and described the organization, managed by James Register, collapsing and leaving them without being fully paid. However they are even more concerned about a large area of the county stretching from the west side of Texasville to the east side of Baker hill near the Eufaula city limits and then southward to the Henry county line without EMS service. “Nearly a thousand people are at risk and don’t even realize they don’t have EMS coverage anymore.”
“This is serious and the state needs to immediately help us organize a volunteer unit”. The squad’s four ambulances were grounded late today, one in a body shop after an accident with a deer, three broken down in various places and one unit that was barely operable parked behind the squad’s office.
Sitting squarely in the middle of the area affected, and one of the County’s largest industries, the Equity Group’s Chicken Plant. Members of management we contacted this afternoon were stunned they had not been informed so they could make appropriate arrangements. We did speak to Mayor Grubbs at Baker Hill who clearly explained how the squad was not part of the city, but they (the city) had contributed money to it in the past and said “answers were very hard to come by and he was deeply concerned“.
The rescue squad has been successfully operating since the 1980′s and the first sign of trouble, several members told us, was when the traditional Christmas bonuses were not what was expected. Members of the squad confronted James Register, a former preacher, who was responsible for the organization’s checking accounts and he alerted them that a Medicare Audit had been taking place since April and he could not get the government to pay them. However, Register declined to let any of the members see the actual account statements when they requested them, or evidence of such a audit.
In an extremely controversial move, Register allegedly asked several members in a squad meeting to falsify reports that would make a BLS (basic life service) run to appear as if it was an ALS (advanced life service ) run so the organization could get paid more money from the government. The members then had a vote and refused to participate in such activities.
Members reportedly have approached the Baker Hill volunteer fire department, which is a separate entity, and asked them if they can take over the service, but an agreement has not been reached. No one knows or can find out anything, do we have any money, bills, who owns what, its a huge mess. Members were able to take the personal Ford F250 truck Mr. Register had purchased with squad funds and recently sold it to a Eufaula Fire Department employee for $11,000 and then they divided it equally so some of their pay owed from the months previous, could be disbursed.
Most disturbing one member showed us was paperwork indicating that as recent as last year, the rescue squad had nearly $ 600,000 dollars in the bank in an interest bearing account. “No one knows where that money went and no one can give us any answers. We hope the state will help us or the district attorney’s office and determine what has happened”.
“Right now” though several members stressed, “the people who live around Baker Hill, Texasville and Edgefield need to know they are without coverage and this puts the elderly and injured at severe risk“.
WE WILL CONTINUE FOLLOWING THIS STORY, AS OF RIGHT NOW WE HAVE BEEN BEEN UNABLE, AS HAVE SEVERAL MEMBERS OF THE RESCUE SQUAD, TO GET IN TOUCH WITH MR JAMES REGISTER.
( UPDATE 11:08 PM : WE HAVE BEEN INFORMED THAT THE BAKER HILL FIRE DEPT. IS PLANNING TO TAKE OVER THE RESCUE SQUAD, OR IF THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE, WILL WORK TO PROVIDE A NEW EMS SERVICE, WE WILL SHARE MORE DETAILS AS WE CONFIRM THIS, AT PRESENT OUR UNDERSTANDING IS THAT EUFAULA, CLAYTON, AND ABBEVILLE HAVE AGREED TO ASSIST AREA RESIDENTS WHERE THEY CAN FOR EMS IN THE AREA OF THE COUNTY THAT HAS BEEN PREVIOUSLY BEEN COVERED BY BAKER HILL )
By John Carroll
EUFAULA - Criminal charges and civil liabilities could be faced by Eufaula officials over the deadly chemical Pentobarbital that has been reportedly released in an illegal manner to kill thousands of dogs and cats the past several years. The dogs and cats, after being euthanized, were then illegally disposed of in violation of the Alabama Solid Waste Disposal Act. This then likely exposed the deadly toxin to Ospreys, Hawks, Bald Eagles, Buzzards and numerous scavenger animals who fed upon the contaminated bodies for periods of up to four months in very close proximity to the shore of the lake and two heavily populated subdivisions where children often play.
There are several federal statutes that may have been violated. According to U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Tyrone Ragan, Natural Resource Specialist that monitors lake Eufaula, Ospreys, Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles frequent and nest in the area and all are protected by law. John Rawls, the Federal Game Warden over this jurisdiction, told us that, “the Migratory Bird Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act protects these species and critical habitat areas and it falls under strict federal jurisdiction”.
Last week Mayor Jack Tibbs continued to issue strong denials, in a widely distributed memo and posting on the city’s social media sites, of any illegalities involved in the disposing of captured animals by the Police Department’s Animal Control Unit,
noting specifically that they “are in conformance with applicable state laws” and cited “WE COULD NOT FULLY MEET THE DEMANDS OF THIS RESPONSIBILITY WITHOUT THE the professionalism” FROM VETERINARIANS SUCH AS Dr Tommy Horne”.
But evidence has mounted in the past week, state officials witnessed and photographed the illegal disposal of the animals, building an irrefutable argument that it is becoming increasingly likely that the Police Department, under the direction of Mayor Jack Tibbs, has intentionally misled the public in a misguided attempt to protect the city and the lake from bad publicity and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties and fines, not to mention a potential environmental cleanup that could cost taxpayers a fortune. Last night after a controversial city council meeting where public comments were banned, the mayor publicly reversed his position and said that “it is his understanding that it was not being handled in a legal way and he assured a group of concerned citizens he would handle it”. Tibbs then alleged to us that he “had not visited the site, as of last night” and stressed his “primary concern was the ability to continue to be able to sell the lake for business purposes”.
When questioned directly after the council meeting if he were willing to visit the site, where the animals have been illegally disposed of with interim police chief Steve Watkins, he refused and stated it was a road-killed fox and a deer carcass that had been reported. We then offered to give Tibbs the opportunity to review any of our source material and he declined. Several people immediately spoke up and offered that they “knew this had been taking place for years” and demanded “it stop and for an outside investigation to take place”.
Mayor Tibbs then replied “if anything illegal was done in the disposal process that it was on the Vet (Dr. Tommy Horne), not the city, as far as liability goes”. However, in direct testimony to state officials investigating the illegal disposal and the allegations of illegal methods of euthanization being performed by Dr Horne, witnesses directly contradicted the mayor’s statement.
When questioned by dozens of concerned citizens in the Council meeting, Mayor Tibbs was willing to answer their questions, but Councilman Bob Powers became aggressive, interrupting the mayor multiple times and eventually appeared to actually order the Mayor to not discuss anything with the public about the issue. The crowd then became visibly angry with Powers shutting down all discussion. Both men are heavily dependent upon selling Lake Eufaula as a tourist and bass fishing destination for their own financial security. Powers being President of the Eufaula Agency and Tibbs owner of Strike Zone Lures.
Powers further complained about WTVM Channel 9 reporter Dante Renzzulli having questioned him directly about the illegal disposal, indicating he was not going to be questioned regarding the business of the city unless it was under controlled circumstances and in writing. One reply shouted from the audience was “what do you know about this and what the hell happened to democracy”. Powers refused to answer the local businessman and defended his recent decision to take away the public’s traditional right of over 50 years to address the council without any public referendum. This effectively enables the city to now deny anyone’s legitimate request without providing any reason as to why.
Despite Power’s objections, the Mayor did promise the crowd “if anything was improperly done by the city, he would address it”. Tibbs stressed, “his main concern was the pubic image of Lake Eufaula and how the crisis affected his ability to sell the lake and recruit industry to the town”.
Contradictory to Mayor Tibb’s statements, however, we have been informed that Animal Control Officers and city employees, some who have been interviewed by state officials, approached Mayor Tibbs shortly after he was elected last year, and informed him of numerous state and federal laws being broken, Tibbs promised them then he would take care of it. Tibbs denied being told anything about this subject by anyone.
Sources inside City Hall tell us this practice began when a former chief took over the Eufaula Police Department, and it was shared with us that former Chief Kenneth Walker and Capt. Phillip Ezzell, who was in charge of the Animal Control Unit until 2007, they always
“followed the law to the letter the with advice of Dr Klein as the legal requirements to dispose of the euthanized animals”.
If so, based on documents we have been shown, this means a rough estimate of up to 8,000 animals could have been illegally disposed of since then. At an average dose of 40 – 100 ml per dog there could be upwards of 100 liters of the deadly toxin that the city of Eufaula has introduced into the environment directly adjacent to the west side of the lake in a popular fishing area and near two areas where children frequently play.
Last Friday we inspected an illegal disposal site with state investigators who took photos and witnessed the rotting and decaying of piles of euthanized animals exposed to groundwater and other animals feeding upon their carcasses. Investigative Reporter Dante Rezzulli from WTVM channel 9 had witnessed and filmed the week before. The fact that the Mayor continues to issues denials and refuses to examine the site is increasingly hard to comprehend.
As we have previously reported on Feb 5th, local veterinarian Dr. Tommy Horne discussed with us how, at the city’s request, he used the controversial drug pentobarbital to euthanize cats and dogs in a manner that is contradictory with the professional’s standard’s outlined in the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Guidelines. In a interview with Horne, he admitted that an extremely toxic chemical (pentobarbital) was used in the euthanization process of stray dogs and cats for the city of Eufaula. To the veterinarian’s credit, he admitted to performing the procedure, in what we believe was an attempt by him to have it stopped and brought forward to the public. Here is a link to that article.
A public records request pending with city attorney Courtney Potthof should detail the payments made to Dr. Horne and copies of the Animal Control Center’s records that will give us an up-to-date number of the dogs that have been euthanized with this deadly chemical and a more exact estimate of how much of the deadly chemical has been released into the environment.
The policy requested of Dr. Horne, and that he admitted to us he performed, from sources close to mayor, say it was purely an economic decision on the part of the City and at no time did Horne recommend it.
“They did it to save twenty bucks, Horne is a nice guy and was merely doing what was asked of him. They simply were not willing to pay the money to have it done properly…really stupid, all to save twenty bucks”, one person at city hall told us.
More importantly, this was done against adamant protest by former animal control officers and current city employees, some who had been trained by the State and SACA in the legal methods of euthanization, hold periods and strict laws concerning control of disposal of the toxic pentobarbital-laced remains. In a confidential interview by state investigators, former employees shared with their supervisors that it was criminal to dispose of the animals in such a manner.
Allegedly indivIduals who were notified that this disposal was against the law were Captain Steve Watkins, Chief Ralph Conner, and Mayor Jack Tibbs. It was alleged their supervisors then insisted the employees cease complaining about any violation of law and were instructed to do as they are told or find a job elsewhere. Current employees have informed us that they were warned last Friday to not to speak about the matter or they would be immediately dismissed. One of the employees who printed out various federal and state statutes and sought to warn the Mayor was forced to resign and has been the target of what appears to be a illegal search without a warrant and police intimidation in recent weeks. We have notified the city attorney of this behavior, and in the presence of a group of a dozen people, told Tibbs of this. Two of the individuals have retained legal representation to protect them from the authorities attempting to force them to not speak about the matter. “The truth, one said, is going to come out whether they like it or not at this point, come hell or high water”.
In an interrogation where one of the employees was forced to resign, we have obtained video that shows Chief Ralph Conner overruling officers and aggressively violating the individual’s civil rights where he shouts angrily that “you dont have a right to a lawyer ” .
Understand this was done after the employee was read his Miranda rights, signed a document clearly stating he was legally entitled to have an attorney present which he forcibly requested multiple times and being detained. Other officers later apologized to the employee for Chief Conner’s inappropriate and potentially illegal behavior.
Unfortunately, those responsible for this decision to cover up the illegal disposal of toxin-laced dog and cat carcasses were ignorant of the larger ramifications of the potential liability it would incur for the city and taxpayers and risk to fisherman and children who live and play nearby.
The real problem with using pentobarbital as explained to us by a Federal Game Warden is that,
“when Eagles or other birds feed upon exposed dead animals the chemical immediately gets into the food chain”. It had been his experience that “some Eagles could die within hours after consuming a dog that had been euthanized with this chemical. This is why the laws are so strict regarding its use”.
And of course it enters the water supply and the fish population of lake Eufaula, which calls the whole issue of fishing into question until contamination studies are performed. While inspecting the site with state officials last Friday, we were able to bag and remove one of many carcasses that birds had been feeding on, and it is currently being sent to the US Fish and Wildlife’s Service’s forensic laboratory to test for levels of Pentobarbital contamination. If positive, the liabilities and fines the city faces could be especially severe.
Another city official close to the mayor, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said late Monday that,
“We have the captain of our ship arguing that icebergs dont exist while its obvious we are headed directly toward one. We desperately need someone that has the ability to understand these issues to step in and take charge of the city and not be obsessed with recruiting bass tournaments, if not this will be disastrous for us.”
To understand the extent of the danger posed by the city releasing this chemical into the environment, federal game warden John Rawls who has investigated and successfully prosecuted such cases shared that,
“ Raptors such as Bald Eagles, which are numerous on the western side of Lake Eufaula, can die within several hours of feeding upon an exposed carcass of a animal killed with Pentobarbital. Incidences such as this would be a clear violation of the federal level of the Migratory Bird Act. Endangered Species Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, The penalties for those involved will be very severe”.
We reviewed the documents he directed us to and they state:
Criminal penalties can run as high as $250,000 per individual, or $500,000 per organization under MBTA and EPA, and may include imprisonment for up to 2 years.
The acts also provide for forfeiture of vehicles and equipment
In civil cases maximum fines range from $500 (for “any” violation) to $25,000 (for a “knowing” violation) under ESA and up to $5000 for any violation of EPA
Here is a link to a U.S Fish and Wildlife Fact sheet that discusses it in more detail.
We then spoke to McArthur award winning environmental scientist Wilma Subra, who has served on the EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and she further explained the dangers and what would now be necessary to address the situation.
“THE SOURCE HAS TO BE ISOLATED IMMEDIATELY SO IT DOESNT CONTINUE TO FEED THE ECOSYSTEM. THEN WARNINGS PLACED IN THE AREAS THAT ARE AFFECTED. NO MATTER HOW BAD IT AFFECTS THE LOCAL ECONOMY IT CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO AFFECT PEOPLE’S HEALTH”.
Late yesterday we spoke to a leading area physician at South Alabama Medical Center who was familiar with the toxin and fishes lake Eufaula often. He explained just how damaging it could be to each of the city employees and jail trustees who handled the dogs after being euthanized. “If they weren’t wearing gloves and immediately put into the appropriate body bag, or incinerated, they could easily have been exposed to the chemical by dermal contact. Repetitive exposure over long periods of time could have severe health consequences”.
At this point it seems the debate is not about whether the animals were illegally disposed of, but more who at the city knew what, and when did they know it. We believe those who are responsible for this should be held accountable. If they broke state and federal law, and more disturbingly forced others who worked under them to do so, and then attempted to conceal it, then they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and held liable for any environmental damage and to the employees exposed to this chemical.
By John Carroll
EUFAULA – Incumbent Representative Berry Forte (D) currently serving District 84 will square off against Republican challenger Jerry McGilvary this November. We have spoken with Mr. Forte and he stated “he takes nothing for granted and will run the best race he can and treat the challenger Mr. McGilvary as he would want to be treated himself”. I look forward to meeting him”, Mr. Berry said “and hear his ideas”. Mr. Forte is a lifelong resident of Barbour County , first working at Eufaula hardware for many years, then at American Buildings for decades, while serving on the County commission for eight years before eventually being elected to serve district 84 in 2010 by defeating Republican Joyce Perrin 7,764 votes to 4,152 votes.
According to campaign finance records filed with the state, some of Forte’s largest contributors were the Alabama Education Asociation $10,000, Alabama Farmers Federation $ 9,432, Jere Beasley $1,000, Walter Calton $ 1,000 and Penn & Seaborn $ 250. A full listing of all of Forte’s contributors is listed here
As of this post we were unable to contact Jerry but he is a resident of the Adams Chapel community where he attends church, he served in the Air Force and is a retired insurance adjuster. Mr. McGilvary we are informed by a supporter, this week he will be visting the legislature and be getting a feel for what is required of the office. We will be interviewing both candidates in the weeks to come about their vision for Barbour, Bullock and part of Russell county and how they will plan to move us forward.
We can say this, knowing both of these men, the district has two really good Christian men as candidates to have in such a race, so we are fortunate.
Below is a recent map that shows how the district has been redrawn and encompasses an area of new voters in southern Russell County this time. In 2010 there were 41,000 residents who lived in the district.
Here is a link to a larger scale version that is printable.
Verse for the day
Tell Billy Beasley to change his vote on House Bill 141 !
TELL BILLY TO CHANGE HIS VOTE !
On March 5th Senator Billy Beasley, who sits on the Senate health committee, voted against the interests of his constituents and said NO to house bill 141 which would protect low cost spay and neuter clinics in Alabama that are operated by licensed Veterinarians.
Senator Beasley had previously promised his constituents he would vote yes and support it, but fell victim to lobbyists that changed his vote.
Lets send a CLEAR MESSAGE to Billy Beasley and demand he change his vote when it comes to a vote on the Senate floor in the future.
This petition, and all of its signatures, will be presented to Senator Beasley publicly on the steps of the Alabama legislature.