Who will be in charge of looking into criminal allegations against the Polk County Police Department?
That's a question that remains up in the air as the Polk County Commission voted 3-2 on Tuesday night to send a letter to Sheriff Johnny Moats reiterating their stance that if he has any evidence of criminal activity or wrongdoing by anyone in the police department, he needs to call the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Moats' response remains what it was when he first sent the letter, in that he reiterated he is not an investigator and that he is only the "middle man" as far as bringing the multiple allegations to light in his letter sent on May 5.
"I'm not investigating anything, and I have no knowledge of any illegal activities other than what these guys told me," Moats said. "It's their employees and they should look into it, not me."
He remained firm in his stance as well that he has no intention of trying to take over the Polk County Police Department, and his only interest in the issues was to ensure they were brought to the attention of the County Commission. He said that any comments to the contrary about his intentions are simply untrue.
"I'm not out to get the County Police, that's a lie," he said.
The latest letter between the County Commission and the Sheriff was hand delivered by County Manager Matt Denton on Wednesday afternoon following the vote approving it.
Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd said he continued to have no comment about the contents of the May 5 letter to the commission from Moats, or the one the commission just sent back.
He said since the May 5 letter had been sent, it's been causing tension to grow in his department over the public's response, making it a "bad working environment for my officers."
"My detectives have been getting calls daily of people complaining that we're corrupt and didn't investigate their cases correctly," he said. "We've seen a number of negative comments on social media. And I've had officers report to me that they've had encounters in the public
with people who are saying 'well you aren't going to do anything about it anyhow, you're corrupt.'"
He added that he had not had any officers resign from the department since the 18 anonymous officers threatened to leave their jobs en masse at the end of the month.
Commissioners Stefanie Drake Burford, Chuck Thaxton and Jason Ward all agreed to approve sending the letter that was first drafted to be sent out on May 23, while Commissioners Jennifer Hulsey and Scotty Tillery voted against.
Problems were raised by Hulsey and Tillery over the letter itself during discussions the county held before approval was given to go ahead with delivery during their Tuesday night session.
Hulsey's main concerns were the way the letter was being worded, pointing out that its original wording didn't fit with the way that commissioners agreed to handle issues that could potentially be brought up during County Attorney Brad McFall's departmental audit.
"The way it's worded it sounds like we're saying that this isn't a criminal investigation," she said. "It makes it sound like that we have no intention in looking into that."
Commissioner Jason Ward, who participated in this month's meeting over the phone, said that he was surprised that any problems with the letter that had been circulating since May 23 for potential approval, specifically that Hulsey had an issue with stating the county wasn't specifically looking at any criminal allegations.
Hulsey replied that no, her problem was "I felt like our discussions were that it was an audit to discover facts, and that at the end of that audit, Brad (McFall) would disclose to us if there were any kind of activities. I just want the truth, whatever happens, happens."
After McFall asked for the letter to be returned during the meeting to make the appropriate correction and a joke from Commission Chair Marshelle Thaxton.
"Brad (McFall) must be charging us by the word," Thaxton said.
He also added that it's his intention that the county look into every aspect of the allegations made in the May 5 letter.
"We're going to investigate it until we're satisfied. I don't care if we have to call Colombo in here," Thaxton said.
But with all seriousness, Thaxton also made his position clear that he wanted answers.
"If he has (evidence of) criminal activity, I want him to uphold his oath and get the GBI in here," Thaxton said. "We don't need this to linger on. It doesn't need to be like 'we're not going to do anything about it.' I thought the letter was going to come out like that (Thaxton snapped his fingers) and now I've had to beg for it."
Discussions over the scope of the investigation between commissioners also saw Thaxton reveal that the county sought the help of the District Attorney Jack Browning with the Sheriff's letter on May 5, and that he'd told them if they took the letter to the GBI without hard evidence to back up the allegations, agents would simply laugh and do nothing.
Browning said has seen no evidence that would provide him with a reason to call the GBI.
"The letter presents nothing for me to investigate, no one has given me a name, no one has given me a specific allegation, specific times, nothing," he said.
As the question of wording and the county's intention on the scope of the audit was still being worked out, Ward added in addressing Hulsey that "our discussions were held with the intent to have a departmental audit within the scope of if there are administrative issues, then we'd get some insight on that. We didn't think it was prudent for the full board to do that, so we asked our attorney to do that."
Ward also added that if anyone has any knowledge and evidence of criminal activities involving any public officials, that it needs to be taken to the GBI.
"I think we need to respond to the sheriff that if they have some information that is criminal in nature, and we wanted to let him know we don't have any of that, and if he does then he needs to give that to the GBI," Ward said.
Tillery's objections to the letter were more based on timing instead of taking issue with whether it was right to send. He felt the letter now sent to Moats should have waited until after the audit was completed, when information from the county's internal look into issues is completed.
"I don't understand the timing of this," he said. "I don't see why we're in such a rush to get this letter to him."
Before the official vote came down, Hulsey reminded the Commission her hopes is that there would be no evidence of any wrongdoing within the ranks of the county police.
"I don't want there to be any criminal activity. I don't want there to be anything wrong. And if anyone thinks otherwise, I'm sorry that they do," Hulsey said. "I just want the truth. I'd like this to be over and done with. But I want this done right, so in the future we don't have to continue answering questions about this. And the citizens deserve that."
Commissioner Chuck Thaxton agreed there were issues with the wording and the timing, but said he felt additional information should be shared when McFall finishes the audit, and that information should also be shared with the public.
Police remain on the case in the murder of Tammy Wolfe found in Polk Memory Gardens back in April, but thus far still have no official suspects or plans to make arrests anytime soon.
Thus far, Wolfe's murder remains an open case according to Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd. He said detectives are looking at every piece of evidence they can and are following down leads daily in an attempt to make an arrest.
""We're still digging on that," he said. "It's still being diligently worked."
But right now, the case has no immediate progress.
A new Assistant County Manager and 911 Director are now in place after votes approving the new hires by the County Commission wrapped up the months-long process for both jobs.
The job that caused the budget to be postponed to January is now being filled by a name well known in the community in Polk County as Barry Akinson takes on the duties of Assistant County
He'll be starting in his new job at the beginning of July, in what he said was a move that brings him "full circle" back to Polk County.
"It's kind of amazing how things have worked out like this," he said. "Back when we moved, I hated to leave. So I'm really glad to be coming back."
Akinson and his family moved away in 2007 after he'd taken a job with Lockheed Martin, and that he was looking to get back into work in local governments after he took early retirement in the past two years.
He was previously the city manager of Hiram up until December 2016 when he resigned. And Polk County will remember that Akinson was also City Manager for the City of Cedartown from 2000 to 2004, now comes into the job with several roles in mind for him to fill.
County Manager Matt Denton said that he was the best qualified candidate for the job among 40 applicants for the position after he was given permission to seek out a candidate earlier this year with approval of the FY 2017 budget.
"We're getting a great addition to Polk County," he told board members when recommending him for the job last week.
His approval was unanimous by the board.
In the meantime, Akinson said he's looking forward to getting to work starting on July 5, and despite his previous experience as being the man in charge, he looks forward to getting to work in the No. 2 spot behind Denton.
"I'm looking forward to getting in there and focusing and doing what Mr. Denton needs me to do," Akinson said. "He has a long list, I know he does. Anxious to get to help him do good."
Commissioners also approved giving interim 911 director Crystal Vincent the role permanently in a unanimous vote during their June meeting.
Vincent, the deputy 911 director under previous hire Beth Byars, took over the job after Byars was fired in the wake of issues with bringing the new 911 Operations Center online.
A 20-plus year veteran of the 911 center, Vincent said she was grateful for the opportunity to continue in the role.
"I'm glad I get to continue working with my coworkers that I've been with for so long, and we as a group can continue to make it a great facility and asset to the county," she said.
Vincent said she had no immediate plans for changes within the department, but upgrades are coming.
"We are looking at the Text-to-911 options that are now becoming available, but that's in the works. It's not set in place yet, but it's coming for the county," she said.
She serves under Polk County Public Safety Director Randy Lacey.
Meanwhile, Vincent will soon also be adding some much needed backup capabilities to her department in the coming weeks.
Commissioners during their June 6 meeting approved purchase of three laptop computers designed to allow for remote operations should something ever happen to the 911 center itself.
The purchases, totaling $32,457 from Ryan Public Safety, who also provided equipment to the new 911 Operations Center, will allow for operators to remotely take 911 calls anywhere there is power and wireless internet.
They'll be kept at strategic locations to allow for backup facilities to be grabbed and put into action quickly, and training will also be provided for 911 operators to use the laptops, which also create their own private networks to use the 911 capabilities.
Commissioners did have their concerns about ensuring the computers weren't kept at the 911 center, and about the integrity of the software protecting data from hackers.
The walk down College St. to meet with the Rethink Rockmart group last Saturday was ultimately satisfying. Looking to my left I could see papers, glass bottles, soda cans. To my right were unidentifiable objects, toys, and some objects I knew wouldn't be degrading in my life time.
The walk wasn't satisfying because litter is enjoyable and fun to look at, the trip was satisfying because the Rethink Rockmart group and its volunteers were prepped and ready to do away with road side filth and litter.
With an arsenal of trash bags, buckets, gloves, water, and hedge clippers, a mixture of Rethink Rockmart group members and volunteers made teams of three or four and set out into the city streets to clean up and perform maintenance.
Prioritized areas included Dever Street, Yellow Jacket Park, Hunter Street, the area behind the nursing home, and more. The group left no stones unturned.
Bucket after bucket was filled with trash and put into bags by one group who, after filling numerous trash bags, began to work on controlling overgrown trees and other eye sores around the neighborhood.
Dead limbs were removed, briers were raked away, and entrapped flowers were saved from their vine kidnappers in a display befitting of the word "teamwork."
Other groups went so far as to remove trash from areas not designated to them, and in turn, filled countless trash bags before regrouping with other groups to help with maintenance.
After the streets were litter free and all was said and done, the teams regrouped to re-hydrate and rest after a hard day's work.
While they made considerable progress, Rethink Rockmart/volunteers simply won a battle in an ongoing war against litter. These roadside warriors will not always be able or willing to wake up before 6 a.m. on a Saturday to pick up other's trash.
One should take notice of the city before litter begins to re-accumulate, and decide whether they like their home with or without road side ditches filled with coke cans and alcohol bottles.
Rethink Rockmart-established two years ago-is designed to promote prosperity, cleanliness, and general optimism about Polk County. They have teamed with Keep Polk Beautiful to ensure the quality of Rockmart.
Look for the Polk School District to get a new leader in their ranks soon as the Board of Education announced last week that the search of a new superintendent has started.
According to a statement from the district's website posted on Wednesday, they seek to be an effective school board by never believing that "they know what the community wants, without talking to the community first to validate the expectations."
"We feel that the community plays an integral role in the process," the statement read.
To that end, the Polk County Board of Education wants to hear what the community has to say about the hiring of a new superintendent, and has setup two community input meetings to share information with the public.
"These meetings are open to the public and attendees that desire to address the board will have an opportunity to sign-in at the meeting and be allowed to express the qualities they seek in a superintendent," the statement read.
The first meeting is coming up in Rockmart next week on June 20 at Georgia Northwestern Technical College's auditorium, located at 466 Brock Road. The meeting will start at 6 p.m.
Board members will also be meeting in Cedartown to hear community input as well, gathering at the Polk County College and Career Academy's new campus at Cedartown High School on June 27.
That meeting is set to start at 6 p.m. as well on the high school campus located at 167 Frank Lott Drive, Cedartown.
For those who can't make it to either meeting on June 20 or June 27, the board has also put in place a comment system online with the announcement which can be found at www.polk.k12.ga.us.
Along with the meetings, the Board of Education announced when they approved interim superintendent Greg Teems to serve that they would be hiring a consultant to help with the search process as well.
Teems has been serving the role since earlier this spring when he was appointed to the interim position, serving until a new superintendent is hired to replace Dr. Darrell Wetherington, who resigned in late February following scandal at the be-
ginning of his administration which started in January of this year. He later was served with a temporary protection order from the court filed by his estranged wife, Jennifer Wetherington, which was extended for a year in court in May.
The board was set to meet for the second time in June after their community input session last week on June 6 to go over several items during their 6 p.m. meeting, which did not have an agenda by press time over the weekend.
Board members had previously heard from Cedartown Middle School educator Jennifer Hulsey about her new Take Back Polk program (see Page A8) and Van Wert parent and school council member Heather Jenkins about their wishes to keep principal Shannon Hulsey and vice principal Jonathan Thomas.
Whether that move was undertaken was still up in the air for public consumption, since no personnel list had yet been published by the Board of Education as of press time this past weekend as well, despite their voting on new personnel and making the appropriate notifications last week.
Teems had said as of last Thursday that those notifications were still ongoing.
Check back for more on the search and upcoming meetings involving the new superintendent search in coming editions of the Standard Journal.
Check out the Rockmart Farmers Market at the Silver Comet Trailhead behind Southcrest Bank on Thursdays from 2 to 6 p.m. from now through Thanksgiving. Visit Rockmartfarmersmarket.com for more information about vendors and upcoming classes.
The Polk County Police Department is once again hosting a blood drive to help Blood Assurance meet the needs of the community. Give a pint during the upcoming drive in the Board of Commissioner's meeting room at the Polk PD head-quarters at 73 Cline Ingram Jackson Road on June 27 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Schedule an appointment today at bloodassurance.com/polkpolice
Polk County Police Office Andy Anderson is hoping the lo-cal community will help raise money for the Helping Hands Food Pantry by purchasing raffle tickets for a Rivergrille Rustler 40-inch vertical smoker. Single tickets are $2, or 3 for $5. Contact Anderson at the Polk County PD at 770-748-7331, or stop by the office at 73 Cline Ingram Jackson Road in Ce-
dartown, or at the Polk County Sheriff's Office today. Sales end on July 13, with a drawing to follow on July 14. Being at the drawing is not necessary.
The Yorkville Baptist Church Vacation Bible School starts on June 19 and continues through June 23 from 6:15 to 9 p.m. nightly. Call 770-316-9242 for more information. Yorkville Baptist Church is located at 6273 Highway 101 North, Rock-mart.
The First Baptist Church Vacation Bible School is coming up July 9 through July 13 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., with a special celebration following at the church on Sunday, July 16. Participants will be singing during morning worship and lunch and games following. Register online at fbccederartown.org or call 770-748-3120.
The Georgia Legal Services Program's Claire Sherburne will be on hand at One Door Polk in Cedartown every fourth Monday to help those in need of provide free civil legal services to persons with low incomes. This includes cases related to housing, employment, education, domestic violence, consumer fraud, wills, and more. It will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The next date will be on June 26.
The First Baptist Church of Cedartown is holding a Patriotic service in honor of service men and women within the congregation and around Polk County. City and County officials are invited to take part in the service being held Sunday, July 2 at 11 a.m. Visit fbccederartown.org for more information.
AARP is organizing a Driver's Safety Class in Cedartown starting on July 20 at the First Baptist Church. This class-room-only course will cover a variety of driving areas. Cost is $15 for AARP members, $20 for non-members. All ages are welcome. Those interested should contact Gloria Brown 404-558-5255 for more information, or email email@example.com.
This year's "Galactic Starveyors" Vacation Bible School at Bellview Baptist Church in Rockmart continues through June 16, with classes for children Kindergarten and up. An adult class and nursery will also be available for those participating in adult classes and volunteers. Full meals each night. Register today at bellviewchurch.org.
The next West Georgia Spay/Neuter Clinic is coming to the Cedartown-Polk County Humane Society today. Head over to the organization's office at 608 Adamson Road, Cedartown on Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m. or Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to fill out an admission and prepay for the surgery. Those want-ing more information can call 678-361-7304 for more information. Vaccines and tests are available for extra cost as well. The next clinic date is June 28 following the beginning of the month.
Mt Zion East Missionary Baptist Church will be hosting the Galactic Starveyors VBS. The VBS Program continues through Friday, June 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. Ages 3 and up will be included. Director Jaimie Brannon invites all area children and adults to participate. Mt Zion East is located at 1335 Mt Zion East Church Rd, Buchanan.
A youth wrestling camp is being hosted by Cedartown High School wrestling program starting June 19 through June 21, from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. each day. Cost is $30 per child. Ages 4 to 12 only. For more information call Jerry Hartline at 470-539-7842.
Signups are underway now for the Celebrity Dance Challenge 5K Walk/Run being held on Saturday, July 22, 2017. The 7 p.m. race is being held to raise money for Team Tuck for the Rome Celebrity Dance Challenge, which benefits the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia. Visit Studio Fit for registration forms or Cedartown Insurance Agency, or call Gwen Tuck at 770-630-1270 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next spaghetti dinner at American Legion Post 12 will be on June 21 from 5 to 7 p.m. Meal is spaghetti, meatballs, garlic toast and salad for $5, all you can eat. This is open to the public. Trivia with Tom and Betty starts at 6 p.m. Participate for a chance to win free a dinner. Bring friends and enjoy the fun.
The Boaz Ministry in Rockmart's new food bank located at 708 W. Elm St., Rockmart, will be open in June on Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m. No fee is required or donations accepted to obtain food assistance. All that will be required is a photo ID.
A Flag Retirement Ceremony will be held at Post 12 on Flag Day, Wednesday June 14 at 9 a.m. This year the ceremony will be conducted by Boy Scout Troop 23. The public is invited. If you have old or worn Flags, please bring them to ceremony, or to the Post to be properly retired.
The Polk County Alzheimer's Support group will meet monthly on the first Monday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Polk Medical Center. Those interested can join for fellowship and lunch following in the hospital cafeteria. For more information call John Giglio at 678-246-8188.
The Church of God of the Union Assembly, 32 Prospect Road, Rockmart, is encouraging members of the community to join them for praise and worship each Sunday and Wednesday. Praise and youth services are held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday nights, and services start at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday following Sunday School at 9:45 a.m. Call Pastor Jesse Starnes at 678-757-4572 for more information.
The Polk County Beekeepers meets the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Cedartown Library 245 East Ave. Whether you are an experienced beekeeper, new beekeeper or want to learn all are welcome. For more information email email@example.com or visit tinyurl.com/polkbees.
The general public is invited to participate in Spring Creek Baptist Church's one-day mini Vacation Bible School will be coming up on Sunday, June 25 at Ridge Ferry Park in Rome from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Signups are underway now for the Cedartown Performing Arts Center Lion King Summer Camp, taking place on July 17-21, July 24-28. Cost is $150 for the full 10 days of camp. Contact the CPAC at cedartownshows.com or call 770-748-4168.
The Polk County Extension Service's annual twice-weekly vegetable market will begin this year on June 27. They will have fresh veggies and fruits on hand from vendors on Tues-days and Fridays from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Call the extension office at 770-749-2142 for more information or to learn how to participate.
Cedartown Supper Club every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. Held at 71 Woodall Rd. Seventh-day Adventist Church. Enjoy a vegetarian supper and participate in a lecture on healthy, happy living. Free and for all ages. Each evening provides a different menu and lecture topic. For more information call 678-901-9184.
Victory Baptist Church's Bread of Life Food Pantry is now open to help those in need. Pre-assembled bags of groceries will be handed out to those in need free of charge (ID required). There's a limit of 1 bag per person per week. Regular hours of operation for the pantry will be Mondays, 1 to 3 p.m., Tuesdays, 5 to 7 p.m. and Thursdays, 8 to 10 a.m.
Interested in becoming a Foster or Adoptive Parent? Open your heart to a child in need and find out how you can help. Join others who seek the love of a child every second Tuesday night of each month at 6 p.m. at Polk Co. Department of Family and Children Services office, located at 100 County Loop Rd. in Cedartown. Information Sessions are held to explain what is required to become a foster or adoptive parent in the state of Georgia. For more information please call Robin Forston at 404-895-6517 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-877-210-KIDS. Visit www.fostergeorgia.com for more information.
The Highland Rivers Health Governing Board of Directors will meet on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, at 10:30 a.m. in the Cherokee County Recovery Center located at 191 Lamar Haley Parkway, Canton, Ga., 30114. The Finance and Corporate Compliance Committees will meet at 9:30 a.m. The meeting is open to the public. For additional information or directions, please call 706-270-5000.
Rivers of Living Water is hosting its 8th Annual "Your Best" talent show coming up on Saturday June 24, 2017 at Rivers of Living Water at 5 p.m. There will be a $100 drawing at the talent show. Admission for the talent show is $10. For more in-formation please contact Courtney Ripoll at 770-689-7838.
Join Paul Craighead at the Rockmart Cultural Arts Center gallery for weekly pottery classes. They are held Tuesday and Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. for $15 each, and $12 for a Thursday class from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Materials are included in the cost of the classes. Call Paul Craighead at 770-843-5302 with questions. Registration open at the beginning of classes.
Celebrate Recovery continues to meet in the First Baptist Church of Rockmart, 311 E. Elm St., Monday nights with din-ner at 6 p.m. A large group gathers at 7 p.m. and small share group at 8 p.m.
Victory Baptist Church will be hosting their annual Stockings of Love Christmas in July event on Saturday, July 22, 2017. Visit their website at www.vbcrockmart.com for more information.
The Alzheimer's Association Caregiver Support Group in Polk meets the first Monday of each month at First Baptist Church of Rockmart, 311 E. Elm St. The facilitator is April Williams. For more information call 770-546-5188.
Lutheran Services of Georgia's Heritage Adoption Program partners with DFCS to find Forever Families for children waiting in Georgia's foster care system. Information Sessions are held on the 3rd Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Rome Office, located at 336 Broad St, Suite 200. Individual sessions may be scheduled to accommodate families, as needed. For more information, contact email@example.com or call 706-506-0649.
The Sit N' Stitch craft group at Rockmart First United Methodist Church is taking a summer break and won't be meeting again until after the Labor Day holiday. Contact Madeline Brown at 678-435-5032 for more information.
Soup and "Savior", a local nonprofit organization, meets from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays to provide needed items to deserving people. This includes a free meal (soup), clothing and gives other assistance. Meetings are held at Glad Tidings, located at 703 Robert L Parks Blvd in Cedartown. Donations are accepted.
Lutheran Services of Georgia's Heritage Adoption Program partners with DFCS to find Forever Families for children waiting in Georgia's foster care system. Sessions are held on the 3rd Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Northwest Georgia office in Rome, located at 336 Broad Street.
Need to get an item onto the Area Calendar of Events? Email firstname.lastname@example.org today! All items must be in at least 2 weeks before the event to appear in the Standard Journal on time.