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Private meeting draws ire of commissioner

COVINGTON -- The first meeting of a committee that will make a recommendation on the proposed firearms discharge ordinance took place Thursday evening, and one commissioner is crying foul because the proceeding was not open to the public.

The committee met for about an hour in the community room of a county fire station. There are nine resident members and two commissioners -- Levie Maddox and Lanier Sims -- serving on the committee. Sims said it's still early in the process, and the committee won't have a recommendation in time for Tuesday's 6 p.m. work session on the ordinance. But the discussion centered on public safety. A majority of members are against the current proposal to require that discharge of firearms must take place at least 350 yards from any residence, place of worship or public assembly or roadway, he said.

Sims said the committee is looking for input from residents throughout the county. "Regardless of which side you stand on we need good ideas," he said.

But Commissioner John Douglas said the meeting was designed to keep the public out.

"I'm obviously very disappointed that they held a secret meeting. It just reinforces what the public thinks of government," he said. "I'm disappointed that this whole issue has come to this point and that they felt it was necessary to work in secret and, by only having two commissioners there, circumvent the Sunshine Law." Three commissioners constitutes a quorum and is required by law to be open to the public. In addition, any committees created by the Board of Commissioners would be required to hold meetings in public. However, the committee has not been formally appointed by the BOC.

Douglas, who took to Facebook on Thursday to express his frustration, said he won't consider himself bound by any recommendation of the committee.

"If they want to work in public, then we'll certainly be happy to listen to what they have to say, but secret government is not the way we do things," he said.

Douglas said a public forum hosted Monday night by Newton Farm Bureau proved the public has a lot of interest in the topic; the committee's deliberations should be done in public, he said.

"You can have a meeting in public but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to take public comment," he said.

Chairman Keith Ellis announced at the forum that a residents' committee would be meeting and making a recommendation to the BOC.

He said the goal was to have at least one meeting to establish ground rules and make sure members were willing to serve in the public eye before opening the meetings to the public. Some committee members dropped out following Monday's public forum, Ellis said. Ellis said two members from District 1, Douglas's district, are on the committee.

"It's team spirit I'm trying to build within and that's exactly what we have. I would imagine Commissioner Douglas would be excited about this procedure, having served in the Georgia General Assembly, where many times bills are put in committee," before being put to vote, he said.

Maddox said there is equal representation from the districts on the committee. He said all agreed to have their names made public and that will likely happen at the Tuesday work session. The location for the meeting has been moved to the jury impaneling room in the Newton County Judicial Center to accommodate more people.

Both Maddox and Sims said committee members are residents who volunteered and demonstrated passion for the subject.

In response to Douglas's comments, Maddox said, "That undertone is very inaccurate and very disrespectful, regardless of who made that."

"I welcome Mr. Douglas to form a committee and bring it to the board or sheriff or whoever. He has not made any suggestions I know of to be on this committee," Maddox said.

Maddox said the committee intends to pursue its work "in a matter that will address the safety concerns the sheriff has brought forward and appreciates and respects the people's way of life and traditions."

Maddox said it will likely be at least 90 days before the committee makes a recommendation. "This thing needs time to marinate," he said.

Hunters and recreational shooters were the majority of speakers Monday night. Though many said they would not be able to hunt if the ordinance amendments are approved, Ellis said hunting is exempt under the proposal, as is protecting property and person. The county's current ordinance does not offer an exemption for hunters.

"They want to find a common ground and not infringe on those law-abiding citizens," Ellis said. "And, if anything, this will lighten the load on those people that hunt regularly. I truly believe that's what we're going to see. I would ask for the patience of the people, patience of the commissioners while this committee works through it."

Ellis stressed that "We won't bring it to a vote until we feel there's been ample opportunity for people to speak."

Brown previously said the Sheriff's Office has received more than 1,300 complaints since 2011 related to firearms discharging, primarily in the high-density western portion of the county.

As proposed, discharge of firearms would be prohibited in most districts, with the exception of agricultural, agricultural residential and rural estate.

Exemptions would apply for law enforcement; anyone lawfully destroying dangerous animals for wildlife nuisance abatement; discharge of blank cartridges for theatrical or signal purposes, military exercises or funerals or memorial events; any resident lawfully defending person or property; and lawful use at a private or commercial sport shooting range.

Prohibitions against firing at a person, at or from a dwelling, house, railroad, train, boat, aircraft, motor vehicle or building used for assembling people would remain.

Firearm discharge in the appropriate areas would be limited to between one half-hour before sunrise and one-half hour after sunset.

Comments

henrystamm 1 year ago

This is a dumb idea and is only intended to chip away on our 2nd amendment rights. Sheriff Ezell must know this, unless he has become one of the prohibitionist as most of the democrats are. I wonder who the rest od this so called committee are to be, more prohibitionists masquerading as neutral citizens?

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jimdavis 1 year ago

The Sheriff identified what he said was a problem in the western part of the county then stated for him to better control this problem the county would need to restrict the freedom of all the citizens in the county ,,, typical liberal bate and switch. It's time the people of Newton county removed the liberal from the board

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Newtownqq 1 year ago

I can't believe this BOC member is saying this. What does he think about the JDA? That is a super powerful unelected board that has made financial commitments and other promises to Baxter. It seems that this Board memeber is seeking election in Congress, John they have closed door meetings all the time not in public view. You gonna change that? What Brown is seeking is not to end your right to Bear Arms. He is asking that we create an ordinance to curb gun fire in the county. I think Henrystamm you need to go back and read the 2nd Amendment, it does not say anything about discharging a weapon in a residential area. Also if you want to be a voice in this I sugesst that you form your own commmitee and make a difference rather than just shooting off your mouth!

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mansfield 1 year ago

In response to Douglas's comments, Maddox said, "That undertone is very inaccurate and very disrespectful, regardless of who made that."

Wanting open government is disrespectful? Wow!

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dennistay53 1 year ago

I agree with Douglas that this was set up to circumvent the open meeting laws. When you intententionally design meetings to get around the law you might as well be breaking it. The law say's when in doubt rule in favor of openess. I'm more concern with the secret meetings than anything else so i'm on the side against attempts at secret meetings,

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Covingtonian 1 year ago

The more I hear from Douglas the less I think of the man. His shananigans began while as a senator he was stopped by the Conyes Police and cried like a baby to anyone that would listen. He seems to be either playing to the public or trying to further his own career by his tactics. Seems to me he tried to throw his fellow commissoners under the bus on this issue because so many people have strong feelings. As for henrystamm the Sheriff has stated publicly that he is for 2nd amendment rights and given his reasons for seeking change, guess you have started early campaigning for the next election? Or maybe it has something to do with comprehension?

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John 1 year ago

I, like John Douglas and many others , would like to know who the two members that were selected from each district, why were selected (credentials) to speak for everyone in their respesctive district and who did the selecting. Heck no one polled me for my comments or ever has in almost 17 years I've lived here and payed my property taxes at the same address. This is called transperancy & getting in touch with the people you are representing. Oh, we now here will know Tuesday after the first meeting is part of the history books..

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dennistay53 1 year ago

I would like to know as well John. Don't do much good to televise meetings if you gonna do stuff like this

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Billy 1 year ago

There can't be enough safety. If you oppose that, you're a nut, not a 2nd Amendment supporter. There shouldn't be ANY discharge of firearms outside of a shooting range or authorized hunting property, even if you're on your own land. It's just too dangerous. Those that oppose, who choose gross irresponsibility and inconsideration over sensable regulation of this subject, are selfish and a danger to others. When others are injured as a result of this law, all who supported it should foot their medical bills, (or funeral expenses). We're not talking about walking a dog; we're talking about discharge of firearms, in which the danger cannot be understated. You can't learn this in engineering school or with a PhD; this is Common Sense 101. There is NO valid argument to the contrary, but it won't stop the childish from trying...

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UGAFan 1 year ago

You are incorrect....

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jimdavis 1 year ago

Billy your wrong here you have set yourself up as the only person that can have a view. your saying only your view is valid...their looking for input from everyone ....

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jimdavis 1 year ago

I must add forums like this ; a free exchange of information ; is how we grow as individuals. a free exchange if ideals we all have something to give to each other.

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reasonableone 1 year ago

I agree with Covingtonian. John Douglas is part of the problem. He is not interested in the good of the community . He is only interested in what is good for John Douglas and his chances in the next election. Mr Douglas, try to be a leader for our community and not just a politician.

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Frustrated 1 year ago

Douglas be a leader of the community? All he knows is how to be a politician. This is just anothger ploy to keep his name in the papers for the upcoming election.

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John 1 year ago

Right now we have all kinds of laws that a.) we don't enforce and/or b.) we cannot enforce due to man power constraints due to budget issues and/or c.) law enforcement turns the other cheek when they see it happen. Example, high speed traveling (45 mph +) thru sub divisions, kids ( 12 years and younger riding unlicensed dirt bikes and/or 4 wheelers (without helmets) or golf carts on city/county roads, caution & red light runners, I Yield to no ones , improper lane changes, drag racing, etc. etc.. etc. As result of the lack of enforcement the public has gone wild - no all but enough you need to be full tiem driving defensively and no doubt in my mind certain folks are violating the current laws - it only takes one misguided or richoceted bullet to end the life of some one close buy.

I am a current gun owner, bought my first rifle at age 11 (Savage Stevens single shot .22) - I respect my rifle & hand guns but I also respect my neighbors & their concerns for safety. That little ole .22 bullet will travel 5280 feet (aka 1 mile). When I want to target shoot I have always gone to a shooting range - Charles Elliot ain't to far to go plus it is a nice place to visit w/ family & friends. My belief is we need a stronger enforceable laws like Sherriff Brown has proposed so he can better apply his limited man power resources to more pressing issues and we need a few more folks in law enforcement with a Wyatt Earp type attitude (you break the law you are busted) to curb this "Gone Wild' society he in NC & else where.

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Covingtonian 1 year ago

For the record John, there is no law on the books in Ga. for running a caution light. Although a caution light should cause drivers to start stopping and not speed up Your point is well taken I only mention this because many of our fellow posters believe anything they see in print or hear on the news. By the way I see that Mr. Douglas has changed his mind about running for a higer office, likely because he feels that the public didn't react to his attack on his fellow commisoners as he thought they would. I think he plays to the crowd and no sympathy from me because he as myself happens to be a cancer survivor.

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John 1 year ago

Covingtonian, At the top of page 76 of the DDS manual, 2012 edition, it clearly states that ALL drivers, biciylists and predestrians MUST OBEY traffic signals, etc. Further down the page is defines what a amber/yellow light means and what the driver is supposed to do. I can only interpret the meaning of this as if you don't obey & do something other than what you are supposed to do you can be cited or at least pulled over and give na lecture and if you are cited you have broken something like a law. By the way this is the same meaning in all the states I have traveled or lived in. When I was still learning to shave a "cop" pulled me over & gave me a stern warning about running though a caution light and had his ticket pad out for extra effect or ready to write if I showed any disrespect.

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Covingtonian 1 year ago

For the record John, there is "no law on the books in Ga. for running a caution light". I stand behind my intial statement and will gladly do a rebuttal if I am wrong. That's part of a growing problem with drives today, many are mis- intepretting the rules of the road and the law although I will say once more "Your point is well taken". State to me the state traffic law code in which a driver can be ticketed for running a caution light.

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John 1 year ago

Right now we have all kinds of laws that a.) aren't enforced and/or b.) they cannot be enforced due to man power constraints due to budget issues and/or c.) law enforcement turns the other cheek when they see it happen. Example, high speed traveling (45 mph +) thru sub divisions, kids ( 12 years and younger riding unlicensed dirt bikes and/or 4 wheelers (without helmets) or golf carts on city/county roads, caution & red light runners, I Yield to no ones , improper lane changes, drag racing, etc. etc.. etc. As result of the lack of enforcement the public has gone wild - no all but enough you need to be full tiem driving defensively and no doubt in my mind certain folks are violating the current laws - it only takes one misguided or richoceted bullet to end the life of some one close buy.

I am a current gun owner, bought my first rifle at age 11 (Savage Stevens single shot .22) - I respect my rifle & hand guns but I also respect my neighbors & their concerns for safety. That little ole .22 bullet will travel 5280 feet (aka 1 mile). When I want to target shoot I have always gone to a shooting range - Charles Elliot ain't to far to go plus it is a nice place to visit w/ family & friends. My belief is we need a stronger enforceable laws like Sherriff Brown has proposed so he can better apply his limited man power resources to more pressing issues and we need a few more folks in law enforcement with a Wyatt Earp type attitude (you break the law you are busted) to curb this "Gone Wild' society he in NC & else where.

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dennistay53 1 year ago

No one who has been through cancer treatments (My wife and myself have) would even dare question John Douglas's decision to put health and family first, no matter what you may care about his beliefs. As far as his 2nd amendment beliefs - these are the people who voted to put him in office- what are you saying- he shouldn't represent them?

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Duster 1 year ago

I just miss my old home. Then everyone had to move in to get away from the (City). Then start telling us how we have been doing it wrong for so long. "Aw. we need a store here and there". "There is nothing to do here". "I dont like what my new neighbors are doing on there land". Start going to Church. See what life is realy about. Dont tread on me! We is just poor dirt farmers that dont know nutten.

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LOVINGLIFE 1 year ago

Maybe he was not asked to attend the meeting because no one felt that he had NEWTON County in his best interest , since he was running for a congressional seat.I wouldnt have invited him either. Now he has decided not to run , maybe they will invite him to join them. He should have the time now that he has put his eggs back into the Newton county basket. Welcome back Mr. Douglas.

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