Go Where the Truth Leads You

If you have read any of my blog, I think it is obvious that I was not a journalism or English major. In fact, for most of my political career, my relationship with the media would have been best described as contentious and untrustworthy. As a blog, I am not held to some of the same journalism ethics and standards that would be expected of the legal organ; I am certainly not objective. I find that I am very biased and my wife would be happy to confirm it. Finding a balance in writing about our legal system in Hall County is going to be my greatest challenge.

I imagine that a lot of investigative reporting starts with a phone call or e-mail describing some sort of injustice. The problem is that while looking for evidence, you are automatically biased to prove the injustice. I also imagine that a lot of investigative reporting is dismissed based on the fact that there seems to be a grudge or a conspiracy theory in place. I think that you can easily tell if you are onto something based on the response to your open records request.  When I was told that my request would cost almost $1,000 to produce a couple of files, I knew that I was onto something.

Even after challenging the bill, it became obvious that this was not going to be an easy task getting to the Truth as the ORR was produced in the most cumbersome way: page prints (reduced sample). I received the log by way of two files that added up to a total of 7,264 pages. Unlike the file that was produced through an open record request on me, the courthouse seems to want to make this process as difficult as possible. But never fear Truth readers, while it has taken me awhile, I have run all 7,264 pages through an OCR program and will soon have the pages databased in a format that can make the data useful.

“Public men and women are amenable ‘at all times’ to the people, they must conduct the public’s business out in the open”, Chief Justice Weltner as stated in the case of Davis v. City of Macon. So before we look at the data, we need to acknowledge that the problem with sunshine is that the ballot box should be the ultimate trial to determine a person’s success in office; but it doesn’t work on judges since no one will run against an incumbent. I have lived in Hall County for 10 years and I can only think of 1 time when an incumbent was challenged (and he barely lost). There seems to be no accountability to the people from the courthouse. They get just about whatever they ask for from the commission and there is very little accountability. Well, the buck stops here.

And so, we will start our investigation; we will try to keep our mind open and follow the Truth where it leads us. This investigation may be biased or due to a conspiracy theory, but since I have the data I want to start the series of articles with something that has nothing to do with the original complaint. Keep coming back as we start to look at the problems in our courthouse.

Your friend,

Commissioner Chuck

  5 comments for “Go Where the Truth Leads You

  1. PIRG
    July 23, 2015 at 9:37 am

    The Open Records Act is used as a tool of intimidation. Very few people have the kind of money that you are talking about here. I have ran into that myself trying to look at how the county has spent 17 million dollars with nothing to show for it on this Glades Project. The same high price for efforts at looking at the management practices of the Sheriff’s Dept. Then sometimes you have to engage in semantics in trying to define just what “is” means. Asking for a Risk Management Report to justify the actions of this new county clinic and all of the numbers being thrown out as benefiting the county. Mr. Moats, with over 30 years of experience, has came back and said he is not aware of any Risk Management Reports nor does he understand just what report I am asking for. Ironically, he has a loss prevention specialist on staff. She should know. Then there was the refusal of Mr. Knighton or Mr. Gibbs to bring a waiver option to the Board for their action concerning the fees. They simply don’t want to. I understand the reliance on what state law says concerning Open Records and the political justification for it. What it’s going to take is a trip to Century Blvd there in Dekalb County just as the infamous Jail Captain became the subject of a DOJ investigation and later resigned. The Chairman is a former Sheriff and the former U.S. Marshall for the Northern District of Ga. The gentlemen on Century Blvd might take a keen interest in this. Mr. Lutz, you were a former Commissioner. The BOC might and I say might waiver the fees if you ask them in open session.

    • July 27, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      I fully concede that the effectiveness of an open records request depends on how transparent the government wants to be. Case in point with my ORR to the courts; they could have downloaded into a CSV or something usable, but they choose to provide the record in the most unusable format that they could. Also, if your request is not perfectly accurate, they could stonewall you as well.

  2. July 24, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    One reason judges often go unopposed election after election stems from the fact in most cases, candidates for judicial elections must be lawyers. I’m not sure it’s desirable to remove that requirement though maybe in certain lower level judicial offices we may decide it’s okay to have a non-lawyer determine disputes between our citizens.

    Still, even though many of us may feel there are too many lawyers around every corner, there really aren’t that many living inside any given boundary line drawn up for these judicial elections when compared to other professions as a whole. And among those that do, the number who want to offer themselves as a candidate in today’s political environment in order to challenge powerful incumbent judges are far, far fewer.

    The community of political activists may need to become much more involved with the legal community and vice versa if we ever want any chance at identifying judicial candidates with a heart for true reform and an adherence to constitutional law.

  3. PIRG
    July 26, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    Go where the Truth Leads You? Where is the truth leading us? Can’t tell here. I could care less about the flash in the pan, Donald Trump. He is a hiccup right now. Mr. Lutz, I don’t expect any great revelations about your time in office, but I do expect to hear where your differences with the other Commissioners were. You know you only had one vote out of a total of five. But, I know the difference between political correctness with taking a popular political stand when you know good and well the other Commissioners are going to out vote you anyhow. That is good political cover. I have read on another post about others that may or may not be considering running for office again. It is the same crowd as you are. I don’t think Ms. Cooper is going to resign, so I expect you to be a candidate for the Chairman’s position. But, Mr. Stowe may have his own designs on that position with the resignation of Ms. Figueroas from the GCC. In early 2016. they will start announcing. I can recall one time when you and the Board considered a energy initiative from two vendors. I happen to agree the methane gas you spoke of could be a useful source of energy, but the later SPLOST VII didn’t even mention that. Why? It still cost the county $100,000 just to reject the bid. What happened? The Attorney General’s Office may be interested in the large Open Records Fees. I know they were in mine as being very unreasonable. Do you plan on bringing the waivers in front of the BOC anytime soon?The movement of the SPLOST VII from a November vote to that of a March vote had nothing to do with citizen input. The projects never changed during this entire time. The BOC relied on public apathy for the success and it worked. You were part of the Board at that time. I have read the various post on this website and noticed there doesn’t appear to be any efforts at defining where the truth is leading them. Probably the highway to nowhere, unfortunately.

    • July 27, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      Where is the Truth leading us? I don’t know yet. I am working on an article showing how we are overpaying for Juvenile Court services. I also have done a few more ORRs on a county court employee that has been arrested twice, but never made it to trial. While doing all this, I am analyzing a lot of data on how often our judges go to work. We are going somewhere, but I haven’t made up my mind.

      As far as my political ambitions, I am using this blog as a way to eliminate any chance of ever being elected to office. I have never been in 100% agreement with a particular elected official. Believe me when I say that I preferred Tom Oliver as Chairman over the present even though we got off to a horrible start. Chairman Oliver and I found a way to work together. Chairman Mecum had it easy compared to Chairman Oliver, but he just wouldn’t work with me. However, I think that Commissioner Powell has been a much better commissioner since Chairman Oliver left office. The main reason that I could not vote for Chairman Oliver was because Commissioner Powell voted with him 100% of the time. While I am friends with Commissioner Bell, in many ways I think Commissioner Stowe has done a better job; but in other ways, he has not. Commissioner Gibbs and I probably voted the closest, but even we disagreed at times on votes. If everyone agrees on everything, then there is no reason for 5.

      The energy project was probably the thing that I regret the most. “If I knew know, what I knew then”… I would have probably done a methane to electricity project. The problem was that gasoline was over $4 per gallon when we could have made a gallon of gas equivalent for $1.25 per gallon. For us to truly generate a savings we would have needed to be a consumer and unfortunately, the Sheriff was the largest user of gasoline. I was willing to force the issue, but the other commissioners felt that the Sheriff had to agree to move forward. Since the Sheriff still had not bought in, there was no traction into having it added to SPLOST and even if the Sheriff had changed his mind, I would not have support this as a SPOST project. Why should the taxpayers pay for something that could have been funded through savings/revenue?

      You are right about the SPLOST move not having anything to do with citizen input, but not for the reason that you think. The date was moved because the county and the cities were still having issues getting on the same page. Frankly, I don’t think it the outcome would have been different. But now we will never know.

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