County awaits state's findings
By Carol McLeod
The result of a performance review conducted on the Jefferson County Tax Assessor’s office should be ready within the next few weeks, according to Charles Willey, director of public information with the Georgia Department of Revenue.
“It’s still being reviewed,” Willey said in an interview Thursday, Feb. 28.
“I spoke with the director (of Local Government Services) today,” he said, adding that the report is still being drafted. “I would say it would be up here within the week.”
The report will go to Willey’s office and then to the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue, according to Willey.
The public information officer said the commissioner usually takes only a day or two to review this type of document. Then the report should be sent to the agency who requested the review, which in this case is the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners.
Willey said the commission should receive the final report around the middle of March.
Jefferson County Board of Commission Chairman William Rabun said on Thursday that he had contacted Joe Wright, the representative of the Department of Revenue involved in the review.
“He returned my call Monday (Feb. 25),” Rabun said. “He said he had called Vickie Lambert’s office and left a message for her to call him.” Lambert is with the DOR and has been involved in the process.
“As soon as she calls him and passes on any information on the report, he said he would call me back and he has not called me back,” Rabun said Thursday.
The review, conducted during the week of Jan. 7, was requested by the county government as a means to comply with portions of a consent order stemming from noncompliance issues with the county’s 2006 tax digest.
Horses found in South Carolina
By Parish Howard
A number of the 30-plus horses that disappeared from a quarantined pasture outside Louisville have turned up in South Carolina where Humane Society officials have seized a number of animals and the Richland County Sheriff’s Office has charged three people, including a state official, with multiple counts of cruelty to animals.
James W. Trexler, an assistant South Carolina Department of Agriculture commissioner, his brother Terry A. Trexler, and their mother, 70-year-old Hazelene Trexler were taken into custody last week.
In addition to 23 charges of animal cruelty, Terry Trexler, 44, of Sumter, S.C. also faces a kidnapping charge for allegedly restraining a Humane Society investigator and attempting to intimidate her into turning over the camera she had used to photograph horses on his property on Feb. 13.
“He pulled his truck in behind her vehicle, blocking her in,” said Kelly Graham, South Carolina Humane Society director of public relations.
On Monday, Feb. 25, Humane Society officials took 23 horses from the Eastover, S.C. pasture. According to Graham, the horses were all below optimal weight and many of them needed prompt emergency care.
James Trexler, 48, of Hopkins, faces five counts of ill treatment of animals involving five horses that were taken from his property on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
“Four of the horses were shut up in dark stalls with feces, urine and mud piled up over their hooves,” Graham said. “There was no food in any of the stalls and very little water.”
According to the S.C. Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers’ office, James Trexler was suspended Wednesday from his position as assistant commissioner of administration pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation. He has been employed with the Department of Agriculture since 2003.
Hazelene Trexler, who has claimed ownership of all the horses, has been charged with 28 cases of ill treatment of animals.
Neighbors called the Humane Society to report that the horses at the Eastover pasture appeared to be gaunt and malnourished, Graham said.
According to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott “the severe and barbaric treatment” of the horses is still under investigation.
The 28 horses seized are under the care of a Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals endorsed veterinarian who, according to Sheriff Lott, is providing “care for the horses that sustained injuries ranging from malnutrition to inflictions that being left untreated cause lameness to halters growing into the faces of the horses.”
Terry and Hazelene Trexler each face an additional 30 counts of animal cruelty in Jefferson County where officials with the Georgia Department of Agriculture have been investigating a pasture of 70-plus horses since Oct. 25, 2007. Each charge carries a potential fine of up to $1,000 and one year in prison.
Officials with the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Equine Health Division were first contacted by Jefferson County’s Code Enforcement Agent Jimmy Kitchens after neighbors called him reporting gaunt horses in a pasture outside Louisville.
Since October Georgia Equine Health inspectors have made at least three trips to the Louisville pasture to take the most infirm and transport them to critical care centers for recovery.
The state placed all of the horses in the Jefferson County pasture under quarantine in October because the owners did not produce documentation showing that the horses had received their mandated Coggins test, which is used to diagnose Equine Infectious Anemia.
In addition to the 26 animals taken by the state, and 10 that were removed by the pasture’s owner, there were more than 30 animals taken from the site sometime after Nov. 12.
“We don’t know what happened to the others,” Kitchens said. “But whoever took them broke quarantine.”
Monday, March 3, Terry and Hazelene Trexler appeared in a Columbia, S.C. courtroom where Judge Harold Cuff ruled that the horses seized at their residences would remain in the custody of the Humane Society until it can be determined whether the Trexlers were indeed in violation of the law in their treatment of the animals.
Jefferson County’s Deputy Jimmy Kitchens and Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Equine Divison Investigator Marei Hunter were in the courtroom prepared to testify regarding the condition of the horses in the Georgia pasture.
After the court’s ruling, Kitchens and Hunter visited the facilities outside of Columbia where the seized horses were being kept and rehabilitated.
“Monday afternoon the Humane Society seized another 17 horses from a pasture where the Trexlers had placed them,” Kitchens said Tuesday afternoon. “In all, it looks like 26 of the horses over there were once here in Jefferson County. Some 25 were under quarantine when moved and there was another, a mare that had a distinctive tear from giving birth, that we located. She had been moved before the quarantine was placed.”
Now that these horses have been located, Kitchens said he plans to determine whether the Trexlers will face any additional charges for breaking quarantine or taking the animals across state lines.
“We are glad we found out where these horses went to,” Kitchens said. “We felt comfortable that they had returned to South Carolina, but we really didn’t know. We’re just so grateful that the South Carolina Humane Society and the vets over there have gotten involved and are working with us to bring these people to justice and see these animals get the care they need.”
Bryan said at the time that the results would be received by the county by the end of January. The county’s goal in requesting the review was to independently determine the needs and any short comings in the tax assessor’s office in order to better comply with the specific issues addressed in the consent order, he said.
“They interviewed all individuals with working knowledge of different aspects of the department,” Bryan said. “They audited the data within the department to ensure compliance of established policies and of accurate data input.”
The review board consisted of Wright; William F. Griffin, chairman of the Lee County Board of Tax Assessors; and Darryl Gray, Chief Appraiser of the Emanuel County Board of Tax Assessors. The panel interviewed county commissioners; the county’s board of assessors; the county’s board of equalization; George Rachels and all assessor staff; Bryan; Jefferson County tax commissioner, Jenny Gordy; auditor Mark Davis of Jones, Jones and Davis; Mickey Moses, the county attorney; and a citizen, according to Bryan.
Bryan recently spoke with Griffin, according to Rabun. “They would not release any of their findings until the Department of Revenue checked everything they (the review board) did,” Rabun said. “As soon as we hear something from the Department of Revenue, we will have a published report in the paper.”
Sheriff looking for those responsible for area church burglaries
By Faye Ellison
The Glascock County Sheriff’s Office is keeping a close eye on Glascock County churches after two churches were burglarized in February.
Glascock County Sheriff Dean Couch said that the burglaries occurred inside one of the church’s fellowship hall, while the other was in the church’s parsonage. Sheriff Couch said he believes that both of the burglaries are connected and possibly drug related.
“The items stolen could have been sold at a flea market or a yard sale,” Sheriff Couch said, adding that the case is still under investigation.
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The first theft occurred at Fellowship Baptist Church parsonage in Gibson. The burglary was reported by Bryan Martin on Feb. 10.
“Upon my arrival, I noticed that entry had been made through the front door,” the incident report states. “It was bent and damaged along the door jam where it had been pried open with some sort of tool.”
The items stolen were a Durabrand television, a DVD player, coffee table and two end tables, an antique rocking chair, an electric space heater, lamp, two DVDs and other miscellaneous items. The items and damage to the door totaled $2,420.
The second burglary occurred at Mt. Nebo Primitive Baptist Church in Mitchell in the fellowship hall and was reported Feb. 25 by Lewis Berry.
“Upon arrival Mr. Lewis Berry stated that he had come to the church at 7:30 a.m. to turn on the heat and noticed some coffee grounds on the floor in the church annex,” Sheriff Couch said. “He cleaned them up but then noticed that there were some items missing.”
Sheriff Couch said at that time he notified the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The items missing were a black Emerson microwave, a white Panasonic microwave, a Mr. Coffee coffee maker and an oak table with two shelves.
While the cases are under investigation by the Sheriff’s Office and the GBI, Sheriff Couch asked that any citizens who have any information on the thefts or see any suspicious activity please contact the Sheriff’s Office at (706) 598-2881.
He also added that he would rather the thief or thieves turn themselves in instead of being caught later.
“It is in my opinion that God has a special place in the corner of hell for someone who breaks into a church,” Sheriff Couch said. “They do not want me to catch them. If they have a conscience, they might want to go ahead and turn themselves in.”