Family holds out hope for Cindy
• Cindy Lynch has been missing since last week
By Parish Howard
Over 100 tiny flames flickered and danced on the Swainsboro square Tuesday evening at the candlelight vigil for Cindy Lynch.
Nearly 200 people gathered there, across from Lynch's beauty shop, Bangles, while around 100 miles away investigators continued to search along the Wilmington River in Thunderbolt for any clue of where she may be.
Lynch, who turned 43 on Tuesday, has been missing for over a week and was last seen by a security guard in the Thunderbolt Marina parking lot between 11 and 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 18. She had reportedly been living on a boat docked there with her husband Chet for the past year.
The daughter of Bill and Joyce Toulson of Louisville, Lynch is known to many in the area who drove to Swainsboro to attend the vigil.
Jefferson County Magistrate Murray Bowman, whose wife is a distant cousin of Lynch's, said he has been assisting with the investigation at the request of the family.
"As of 8 p.m. Monday night, a private company had come in to use a sonar system to do echograms of the marina and the river," Bowman said.
"So far they haven't found anything in the river."
He said dive teams, boat patrols and cadaver dogs had been out on the river looking for her and the company with the sonar equipment was expected to widen their search over the next few days.
"The DNR boats were coming back out today and they had a helicopter out checking the marshes and that sort of thing," Bowman said.
Thunderbolt officers have also called in GBI agents and investigators from Emanuel County, where Lynch is from and reportedly keeps an apartment above her shop. Both Lynch's daughter and son, Zaid and Payton Greenway, are also residents of Eamanuel County.
While Lynch has been known to have left suddenly before, Bowman said she has never gone more than a few hours without contacting a family member.
When she failed to show up at her shop on Wednesday or cancel her appointments, the family really started getting worried.
Bowman said that there are a number of scenarios being investigated, but no one is jumping to any conclusions.
A week later, the family clings to the hope that she will return safely.
Family and friends greeted those gathered Tuesday evening. Several people, such as her step-brother William Toulson of Louisville, sang hymns and asked God for strength.
Flowers lined the sidewalk in front of her shop and a message painted on the window reads: "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint..." Isaiah 40:31
Investigators are asking anyone with any information on this case to contact the Thunderbolt Police Department at (478) 354-3818.
Commission votes to appoint new rec. director
• Over 75 residents attend meeting: Nine speak in support of Charles Rutland
By Ben Roberts
Former Jefferson County Recreation Department Director Charles Rutland had one question for county commissioners after their regular January meeting, last Tuesday, Jan. 18: Am I supposed to show up for work tomorrow?
In one of his first acts as the new chairman of the Jefferson County commission, William Rabun made his department head appointments for the coming year and of those 10 positions, Rutland was the only director to not be reappointed. Eugene Cunningham, 48, a recreation department employee for five years, was Rabun's choice for director instead.
The county commission approved the appointments by a vote of 3-1-1, with Gonice Davis voting against the motion and Johnny Davis abstaining from the vote.
In his explanation for not voting, Johnny Davis told fellow commissioners that he had not been part of the previous commission's discussions concerning Rutland's management of the Recreation Department and he didn't think it would be fair to cast a vote in the matter. He did caution his fellow commissioners, however, before their vote, "If a person is dismissed or discharged, we must have documentation (for their dismissal)."
Whether or not Rutland was actually being "dismissed" seemed to be the question of the night. While Rutland was in attendance at Tuesday's meeting, he did not address the commission. His attorney, Ben Allen, however, did, asking commissioners at one point, "What is his reason for dismissal?"
"This is not a dismissal," county attorney Mickey Moses answered, "… it's not a reappointment."
"It's my understanding, it is my discretion whether or not to reappoint him. … That's all I'll say at this time," Rabun said later during the meeting.
Rutland was notified that he would not be reappointed as director in a hand delivered letter dated Jan. 10. The one sentence letter stated simply, "This letter is to inform you that I will not reappoint you as the head of the Jefferson County Recreation Department at the next regular meeting of the commissioners." The unsigned copy given to The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter had spaces for the signatures of Rabun and Johnny Davis. Davis is on the commission's Human Resources-Health-Welfare committee, under which the recreation department falls.
A copy of Rutland's Separation Report, also obtained by this newspaper, lists Rutland's "reason for separation" as "Board of Commissioners did not reappoint employee into his position as Recreation Director."
Rutland signed the separation report on Jan. 20 but in the space for remarks wrote, "No comment. I do oppose this termination."
In a later interview, County Administrator Paul Bryan explained, "Effective of the vote Tuesday night, he (Rutland) is no longer employed by the county." When asked to comment to the legality of such a dismissal, Bryan said, "It has been a practice in this county for some time that these positions have been appointed and/or reappointed by the chairman and supported by the board."
The Jefferson County Personnel Policies manual, adopted Oct. 12, 2004, explains the State of Georgia recognizes the doctrine of "employment at will" which means "an employer may terminate an employee for good cause, bad cause or no cause at all, so long as it is not an illegal cause."
Nine speakers rose to address the commission during the meeting's time for public comments. Many of those speakers voiced their support of Rutland, while questioning the commission's tactics in not reappointing him. Some even questioned whether or not Cunningham was qualified to be appointed to the position of director.
In response to those questions, New attempted to point out that he believed Cunningham had earned the opportunity to be the department's new director; however, in his statement he used the term "boy" in describing Cunningham, which caused an immediate uproar throughout the mostly black audience.
In a later interview, New explained he did not mean to offend anyone with his remark. "I meant absolutely nothing derogatory by saying that. Had I been able to finish my statement, I would have said that, 'the boy deserved a chance because of his longevity with the department.'"
The nine other reappointments made by Rabun were as follows: county administrator, Paul Bryan; county attorney, Mickey Moses; county clerk, Mary Lamb; warden, William Evans; deputy warden, Mark Williamson; Emergency Management Agency director, Lamar Baxley; water and maintenance, Murray Hadden; building inspector, Paul Ledger; and road superintendent, Ken Thomas.
In other business, Edith Pundt was unanimously reappointed to the county Development Authority. Lester Hadden was also approved, but by a vote of 4-1, with Johnny Davis voting against his appointment.
Billy Jordan was appointed to the Planning and Zoning board, Johnny Davis to the library board and Dr. Dudley Gunn was reappointed to the county Health Department board.
Six names were approved to be submitted to the Hospital Board for their approval for two open seats. Those names were: Betty Smith, Lisa Wasden and Eugene Smith III, nominated by New, and Burton Dye, Joe Gore and Billy Weatherford, nominated by Norton.
Fires blaze in county
• Several local fires destroy homes and property across Jefferon County in the last two weeks
By Faye Ellison
and Ben Roberts
As temperatures remain low throughout Jefferson County and the rest of Georgia, thermostats are set high and extra heaters are set up in many homes. With that increase in heat output comes the potential for an increase in fire hazards as well.
Louisville Fire Chief and Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency Director Lamar Baxley urges residents and families to use extra caution when using supplemental heating devices in their homes.
"It's really common sense stuff, but we tell people to be especially careful with space heaters and electric heaters. Don't overload outlets with too many things plugged in. Watch out for flammable items being too close. Watch children around these heaters, especially kerosene heaters," he said.
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Baxley also points out this time of year is as good as any to check your home's smoke detectors.
"Make sure they're working properly. Check or replace your batteries and call your local fire department immediately if there is a fire or you think you might have a fire somewhere in your house."
Baxley said that while fires starting from heating sources are more common in the winter, his department responds year round to a high number of kitchen fires that start as a result of leaving on a kitchen stove or someone falling asleep while cooking.
Around 1:45 p.m. last Friday, Jan. 21, a fire destroyed two apartments and heavily damaged two more in the Peach Lane Apartment complex, located on the U.S. 1 by-pass in Wadley. According to Randy Miller of the Wadley Fire Department, an initial investigation by his department revealed the fire apparently started in the kitchen of one of the first floor apartments. Of the six units located in the building, two were unharmed, two suffered heavy smoke and water damage and two more were lost completely.
Wadley units were assisted by a unit from Louisville, as well as a unit from Bartow standing by.
The Wrens Fire Department responded to several fires during the last week, including alarms, one vehicle fire, two structure fires and a grass fire.
One of the most damaging fires was at 7123 Highway 80 at the residence of Sherlyn Depuy.
Glenn Davis was first on the scene according to his wife, Peggy Davis. Davis was delivering gas for M.B. Jones Oil Company, when he passed by the residence seeing the blaze. His wife said he parked the gas truck beside the road and called M.B. Jones to tell them to call 911 to report the fire.
She said he saw the barn on fire, but the blaze was too big to put out alone, he then moved on to the dog pen, where the dog house was on fire, with two dogs in it. He got the dogs out of the pen.
Afterwards, he began stomping and throwing water on a grass fire that was going to the residence on the property, according to Peggy. She said he then left when the fire department got there.
Wrens Fire Chief Larry Cheely said that they received a call at 4:08 p.m.
"The fire consumed a barn, two cars and a tractor in the barn," said Cheely. "The fire was still going when the forestry department came."
Cheely said they had to plow a breaker to stop the fire from going any further.
The Wrens Fire Department assisted with a fire in Stapleton on Kay Street. The single-family dwelling owned by Johnny Usry was a complete loss, according to Stapleton Mayor Harold Smith.
Smith asked that anyone who would like to donate clothing or make a monetary donation may do so at Stapleton City Hall during regular office hours.