Tyrone’s Caldwell to keep pressing accountability

Tue, 09/08/2009 - 3:36pm
By: Letters to the ...

Comments to Tyrone Citizens regarding state of affairs in Tyrone’s government.

It is my contention that Tyrone’s government must be accountable for every penny of tax dollars collected. In the past, as records show, this appears to have not been the case. There has been minimal accountability in the past government. When I was elected to office, it was apparent that the Tyrone town government needed to be fast-forwarded into the 21st century.

This administration, including myself, inherited a case of poor management with little fiscal accountability, no employee training or employee cross-training, no filing system, ordinances not codified, the town operating under an obsolete charter, erosion problems, a comprehensive plan that did not reflect the wishes of the citizens of Tyrone, Shamrock Park in total deterioration, serious environmental issues, total disarray on Tyrone-Palmetto Road, little striping or paving of streets, mold for years in the police department and computer systems that operated in an 1980s environment.

Now, for those who want to criticize, let me ask you. Do you want the town of Tyrone’s government to be on solid ground financially, be in compliance with state and federal governments’ rules and regulations and attempt to maintain the small-town atmosphere that we were elected to do or do you want Tyrone to continue down a slippery slope?

In January 2008, the town of Tyrone hired Chris Venice as its town manager and planner. She was offered and accepted a two-year contract expiring December 2009.

The Town Council hired an interim finance director to help us through last year’s budget and has, since then, replaced the temporary and hired a degreed finance director/human resources employee.

The Town Council hired a new town clerk, and she has resigned to become the caretaker of her aging parents. We currently have this position advertised.

The Town Council reviewed and revised the town’s comprehensive plan to make sure the small town feel is maintained by continuing the town’s minimum one-acre buildable lots, thus assuring low-density development.

The Town Council now operates under a current charter. Through staff training and the oversight by our town manager, the town has solved many erosion problems, is continuing to work toward solving sewer system problems, and is solving environmental issues.

The Town Council moved forward by approving the removal of the mold from the police department and is currently renovating the police department basement for additional offices, all at no cost to the town.

The Town Council approved the purchase of new computers, software and copiers to bring the town into the 21st century.

Handley Park, with its baseball and soccer fields, is the envy of surrounding communities. By entering into new agreements with these sports associations, accounting has been simplified and procedures are now in place to allow these associations to maximize their use of the fields through their own management and the town’s oversight.

Shamrock Park’s old deteriorated buildings, rusted fences and dying trees have been removed, animal waste scoopers installed, and nature species information signs were installed. The lake area’s overgrowth and weeds have been removed, and a fountain was installed in the lake to aerate the water. The playground area has new grills, new picnic tables, new benches, new trash cans, new mulch, a new roof on the pavilion and the pavilion was painted. The great lawn has been leveled, seeded and maintained to promote open field activities.

This has all been accomplished through volunteer efforts, from private donations, and monies received from the Fayette County Commission.

Tyrone Veterans Park was originally Triangle Park. Tyrone had a monument at the entrance of the Tyrone Police Department in honor of veterans. The Tyrone Council voted to rename Triangle Park to Veterans Park and move the monument to Veterans Park and have a park in honor of all veterans who have sacrificed, some of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice, in order that we remain a free country.

We currently have 500 bricks installed in Veterans Park, a “Buddy” silhouette, red roses representing the bloodshed, and in the fall we will be planting azaleas that bloom white to represent tears shed. This renovation, too, was funded totally through donations and the work done by volunteers.

In closing, I am seeking re-election to Post 3, Tyrone Council. It is my desire to continue to make sure accountability is achieved in every town department and that Tyrone taxpayers know exactly how their tax dollars are being managed.

Grace Caldwell

Tyrone, Ga.

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Submitted by TyroneConfidential on Sat, 09/12/2009 - 5:30pm.

Grace, I read your letter to the Citizens Editor with your campaign pledge to make Tyrone’s government accountable “for every penny of tax dollars collected”? But I’m a little confused? You have been on Council for 4 years and never mentioned a word about the $54,000 of tax money taken illegally by the two former town administrators for vacation pay and over-time.

I know you knew about the money because the finance director you take credit for hiring, Mary Sturm told you. Then I wrote you a letter asking what you were going to do about it, but you never answered my letter. Even when the exhibits produced by the GBI investigation proved the money was taken in violation of Tyrone’s payment plan ordinance, you still did nothing or said a word. So tell us voters, if re-elected how you are going to account for all those pennies.
I notice you didn’t mention that very unfair zoning ordinance that has unconstitutionally taken land uses from all the businesses and caused them to lose so much money. During your time on council you met with and talked to the business community many times to give support to changing this law. But when the zoning issue came before council in 2008, you voted against any change without saying a word. Why did you vote against it? And did you vote to spend taxpayers’ money to hire lawyers to defend that hated zoning ordinance. Is that how you save taxpayers’ money?

And what about the time you and councilwoman Gloria Furr visited the home of citizen Winnie Anderson to inspect drain water, approved by Tyrone, to be dumped on Ms. Anderson’s property, giving her false hope of help. Then when she came before council seeking your help, you and Gloria decided not to help her. Not only that but you and all the other council members voted to spend taxpayers’ money again to beat down Ms. Anderson. Why did you do that? Then when your highly paid lawyers lost their summary judgment motion, you voted to settle with Ms. Anderson for $20,000 of taxpayer money. Is that what you mean by being accountable for every penny? Wouldn’t it have been proper, cheaper and easier for you to have asked the public works department to run a simple drain pipe down the back line of Ms. Anderson’s lot and dump the water into the adjacent lake? Why don’t you save some future pennies of taxpayers’ money and make that suggestion now? That lawsuit is still headed for court, where a jury will most likely give Ms. Anderson many more pennies.

Of course my zoning lawsuit is also still headed for court which has the potential to bankrupt Tyrone. Think about how many taxpayers pennies you haven’t saved on lawyers’ fees on this one over the past 2+ years.

So far this lawsuit has caused the Tyrone government to admit that it was using illegal business licenses to keep business out of Tyrone, and forced Tyrone to change to Occupational Tax Certificates for businesses which is a tax and not a law that cannot be used to deny legal land uses. Tyrone also has been forced to admit in writing that it was also abandoning grandfathered land uses illegally. And Grace, you keep paying lawyers to ignored their own admissions.

But the issue that will cost taxpayers many pennies is the inverse condemnation of land uses without compensation. Georgia zoning law clearly says that the monetary penalty for inverse condemnation is the value of the property before the restrictive zoning ordinance, less the reduced value with the zoning ordinance, times the number of years the restrictions are allowed to remain.

Your penny saving lawyers, have long had an appraisal that shows the yearly loss amount to $76,000. Multiply $76,000 for 5 ½ years that the restrictive zoning has been in effect and the cost for this one inverse condemnation currently, amounts to $418,000. As you and your cohorts on council continue to pay your lawyers to try to keep this issue out of court, that $418,000 increases everyday if Tyrone loses.
Take a look at page 6 IIIC of Tyrone’s Insurance Policy. It says that the policy will not pay for “any claim arising out of or connected with inverse condemnation or inversecondemnation proceedings”. That means the ever-increasing $418,000 plus all those 1000’s of pennies billed by your lawyers. How are you going to account for your lack of interest in this case and save all those taxpayer pennies both past and future?

Grace, have you ever asked your lawyers what their defense is on the inverse condemnation claim. Regardless of what they may have told you, their court filings say, “no, Tyrone denies this claim”, without stating any law, facts or appraisals to back up their denial. You know your lawyers were unsuccessful in transferring this case from State Court to Federal Court as a delaying tactic. Did you know the Federal Judge dismissed your lawyers summary judgment motion and the case is now going to a jury in State Court?

Tell the voters why you are gambling with taxpayers’ money that Tyrone will win this case in State Court when a Federal Judge ruled against you. Since when has Tyrone ever won a zoning case in State Court? Tell the voters that if Tyrone loses, it will be taxpayers’ money that accounts for every penny and not you.

Tell the voters that you are gambling with their money that Tyrone will win the case in full, and that your lawyers have guaranteed a win but that if Tyrone loses the Town’s insurance policy will not pay.
Worst yet, tell them that if Tyrone loses, taxpayers will be liable to every business and landowner who lost money due to the zoning ordinance. Just for starters, I can cite Tyrone Tire co., Walter’s Auto, Stanley Motors, Carden Plumbing, Baker Construction Co., TyroneTransmission Shop, Mays Paint & Body Co., and all the others that had their buildings torn down on Palmetto Road, plus the huge Hobgood Estate, the developer of Shamrock Industrial Park that you turned last year, another lawsuit brewing. In fact the whole business community has had their property rights taken.

Grace, from your letter to the Editor, it’s my understanding that you said, and quote, “the Tyrone government must be accountable for every penny of tax dollars collected, and that Tyrone taxpayers know exactly how their tax dollars are being manage”.

Will you tell the voters where you stand on each of the issues I have talked about in this response? And what action you will take now to get all that money back, protect business property rights, make the zoning ordinance fair and stop wasting taxpayers’ money on lawyers’ fees to defend against a zoning ordinance that no one likes.

If you don’t want to do anything about these issues, please say so. Don’t lie to the voters, like Tracy Young, Eric Dial, Don Rehwaldt and Gordon Shenkle did in 2007, publically promising to repeal or change the zoning ordinance.

And Grace, I want to remind you that you told me & Wayne Adams in 2007 that if we would work to elect a like-thinking majority to council, then the zoning ordinance could be changed. So Wayne and I set up a campaign headquarters at Tyrone Tire Co., and got hundreds of people to vote for these liars. After the election, I had to write over 400 letters apologizing for asking for their support and putting signs in their yards. I’ve learned not to believe what a politicians say they’re going to do.

Grace as a current member of council you have an opportunity to prove you will fight for your citizens with action before Election Day. Will you make a motion in council to repeal ordinance 454 and set up a business owners committee to publically work with planning to rewrite the zoning ordinance. Will you make a motion asking the D.A. to re-examine the GBI Report, and another motion asking the State labor Dept to investigate over-payments and under-payments of vacation and over-time payments to employees, and a motion to file a civil suit to recover the $54,000 of taxpayers taking illegally? If you are really serious about accountability of public funds you will make these motions or tell us why not?

It is irrelevant whether or not the other council members will vote for those motions. By your actions you will be telling the public that unlike them, we can regain trust in you.

I hope your opponent Ken Mathews will also address these issues. I also hope that Mary Sturm will speak out by becoming a Write-In Candidate.

Dick Shelley

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