ELLIJAY, Ga. – The staff of the United Community Bank is in their parking lot today hosting their annual Customer Appreciation Day to celebrate the people who make their business.
With music flooding the lot, the staff is welcoming their customers with free grilled hotdogs with all the trimmings from relish and onions to coleslaw and the usual mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise. They are also serving Cokes and popcorn for those seeking shade under the trees.
However, it’s not just food that the bank is offering today. The staff is looking to help their customers grow more than a bank account, offering tomato plants to all who attend along with seed packs for peppers and other garden vegetables. Additionally, attendees can sign up for raffle prizes to get them equipped for the gardening to come.
According to one staff member, Patrick McVey, the event is an annual “thank you” to their customers for the business and allows the staff to see a different perspective of the community they rely on for everything they do.
Months in planning, the celebration is set to go until after 2 p.m. today though McVey said they will stay longer if they still have people.
Be sure to head over to FYN’s Facebook Page to see more photos of the event.
Everyone was welcomed with delicious hot dogs and free tomato plans at United Community Bank’s annual customer appreciation “Tomato Day!”
The weather was damp but the smiling faces brightened the day as the staff at United Community Bank served its customers hot dogs, cold drinks, popcorn and of course the free tomato plants. Customers could sign up for a drawing to win wonderful prizes and enjoy the picnic style meal and have a nice tomato plant to take home.
United Community Bank told us why they plan this special day: In appreciation of you, our loyal customers, we host our annual Customer Appreciation Day events! From free food and treats to the iconic tomato plant giveaway, it’s just our little way of saying ‘thank you’ for allowing us to serve you!
You can tell from the large attendance this event is truly enjoyed. United Community Bank employees enjoyed getting to know the customers and it was a fun way for the bank to show its appreciation! The bank gave away thousands of tomato plants today!
The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have officially approved the new changes to the County’s Land Use Ordinance.
The Ordinance changes received approval on their second reading at the County’s December 8th Meeting. Having already gone through a Public Hearing and first reading in addition to several work sessions and input sessions from citizens, this comes as final approval and official adoption of the changes.
However, another change has already been proposed to the Land Use Ordinance as the Post Commissioner Dallas Miller brought an oversight to attention involving locations of Tasting Rooms in relation to “Farm Wineries.”
To that end, the final adoption of Amendments to the Chapter titled “Farm Wineries” was also tabled until February giving the Commissioners a chance to fix the oversight through proper channels before fully adopting the new Amendments.
As the whole thing ties together, the Commissioners felt they could not wait to approve the Land Use Ordinance Amendments and moved forward with them.
The Farm Wineries were not the only discussion tabled as two more items received the same motion. The Awarding of the Tax Anticipation Note was pushed back as the Commissioners considered three responses. With one of the bids “not in the ballpark,” according to Chairman Charlie Paris, the Commissioners considered the lower two bids in their work session.
Though it seemed they had decided on United Community Bank’s bid in the Work Session, their bid was not the lowest bid received. Park Sterling offered their bid at a lower rate as opposed to United Community Banks’ bid.
The decision came at the contingency of Park Sterling’s bid. They stated their offer was “contingent upon moving accounts to their bank.” The Commissioners understanding in their work session was that the savings from the lower interest rate would have been irrelevant considering all the costs and fees of moving their accounts.
More information came up as a representative from Parks Sterling attended Thursday’s meeting to inform the Commissioners on a part of their bid that may not have been considered. Speaking on the TAN bids, the representative from Parks Sterling spoke with the Commissioners about Service Charges and the bank’s offer of what is called “Earnings Credit” to offset the County’s Service Charges for Accounts. This “Phantom Money” could be used in place of those charges and, as he said, “leaves more principle to earn interest on.”
Stating that the County has been drawing on their TAN later and later in the past few years, Chairman Paris stated the Board could table the discussion in order to learn more about the accounts and to find out how to handle the situation with competitive bidders now that the possibility of Accounts is being considered. As they continue researching this, the TAN is set to be reconsidered in January.
As the Commissioners tabled the discussion the bids were not released, but stay with FYN as more information becomes available during this process.
The other tabled item on the Commissioner’s agenda came after the Commissioner’s received an updated copy of their consideration for a “Resolution Approving the Advertising of a New Chapter of the Gilmer County Code of Ordinances Regulating Activities on the Unincorporated Rivers of the County.”
This item has been under consideration for quite some time as the County is continuing to search for ways to legally protect itself as well as regulate the river’s usage and deal with a piece of County owned property on Mulkey Road that is being used as an outtake for those on the river. Ultimately, the Commissioners felt they had received the new documents to late to have sufficient time to look over them before advertising.
These documents have also not been released due to being under review and not approved for advertising yet.
Moving through the rest of their meetings, the Commissioners have made several appointments and re-appointments to Boards and Authorities around the County.
Mary Fuller-Stanley has been appointed to the Board of Public Health.
Alan Davenport has been re-appointed to the Joint Development Authority as one of the County’s Representatives. He is the member whose term is ending and will continue serving uninterrupted.
Lamar Walker and Paul Mooney both have terms ending on the Planning Commission. Chairman Paris indicated both are willing to continue serving and have been re-appointed to their positions.
Scott Stephens has been re-appointed to his position serving on the Emergency Medical Services Council for Northwest Georgia. Stephens attended the County’s Work Session and said, though serving was far more difficult than he originally thought, he felt the County gained great benefits and information from having him on the Council and he was willing to continue his service.
Pamela Rhodes has been appointed for Gilmer County to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) Advisory Council.
One final Appointment came to move the County Clerk position out of an interim clerk and the Board of Commissioners have approved Edwina Daman to the position. However, the County will await her officially taking the position until the 19th of December.
“Some would rather climb a tree to tell a lie than stand on the ground and tell the truth” BKP
Monday afternoon July 18th in a Pickens County Courtroom Senior Judge Richard Winegarden signed the nolle prosequi orders dropping the charges against Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason and Attorney Russell Stookey.
Thomason and Stookey were arrested Friday 6-24-16. Thomason was charged with three counts; identity fraud, attempt to commit identity fraud and making a false statement. Stookey was charged with two counts; identity fraud and attempt to commit identity fraud.
Appalachian Judicial District Chief Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver filed the complaint with the District Attorney’s office. District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee presented the charges to a Pickens County Grand Jury made up of sixteen citizens. The Grand Jury returned true bills on both Thomason and Stookey.
When the charges were dropped that made the file concerning this case open for the public to view, FYN spent Friday afternoon thoroughly reviewing the file. I listened to the witness interviews several times.
Immediately after the court adjourned Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss did an interview with Channel 2’s Mark Winne. (Doss interview with Mark Winne.) She told Winne she has spoken with the FBI three times since March.
Mark Thomason, Russell Stookey, Lynn Doss, and Fannin Probate Judge Scott Kiker have made claims that there is currently an FBI investigation into Judge Brenda Weaver and Judge Roger Bradley. Thomason, Stookey, and Doss have made the same claims concerning the FBI during interviews. Witness interviews claim Kiker told them about the FBI investigation in detail.
Throughout the DA’s investigation one name kept coming up, County Attorney Lynn Doss. It is common knowledge in the Appalachian Judicial District that Doss does not care very much for Judge Roger Bradley. I stated in a previous article a comment Doss made to me regarding her feelings for Bradley.
Doss serves as the Attorney for Fannin County, Fannin County Water Authority, and the Fannin County Board of Education. Her husband Harry Doss is the Fannin County Juvenile Public Defender and the Fannin County Probate Judge Public Defender. The Doss’s have received a lot of money for several years from Fannin County taxpayers. Side note, FYN has researched Doss and Kiker court cases from Cobb to Towns Counties and have found several cases where Lynn Doss and Scott Kiker are co-counsel. See any conflict with that? Doss is public defender in Kiker’s courtroom. Also what happened to the promise Kiker made the voters of Fannin County that he would be a full-time Probate Judge? Far from it, Kiker has private cases in several counties. And that is a story for another day.
Lynn Doss thoroughly understands attorney/client privilege so why would she risk losing a client like Fannin County Board of Commissioners who pays her $5,708 per month, $68,496 a year? I asked Chairman Bill Simonds if he knew that Fannin County was being investigated by the FBI and also if he knew Doss was speaking to the FBI? Simonds told us he just found out in the last couple of weeks and was not aware of any conversations Doss was having or may have had with the FBI.
Remember the checks from the Judge’s account which Thomason claimed appeared to have been illegally cashed? Who gave the checks to Stookey or Thomason? During an interview with DA Investigator Greg Arp, Simonds told Arp he understood that Doss said she thought the FBI would be contacting her and so Doss wanted the checks. Simonds went on to say, his understanding was that Doss gave the checks to Stookey who in turn gave them to Thomason.
So if Doss told Simonds about the FBI possibly contacting her why did she not come back to her client (Fannin County) and confirm her involvement with the FBI investigation once she was actually contacted?
Investigator Arp asked Simonds if Doss ever admitted to him who she gave the checks to? Simonds replied “Oh Yeah! She gave the checks to this Stookey guy. She is the county attorney. She has no F****** business giving checks out to nobody especially another attorney. She said ‘I do that all the time, I give out numbers.’ Simonds said, ‘Lynn this is a lot different than a F****** telephone number, this ain’t no telephone number.’ She lied about it. I think this is a d*** vendetta. Lynn is vindictive.”
The DA’s investigators Greg Arp and Christy O’Dell interviewed Rita Davis Kirby. Kirby is Fannin County’s CFO. Kirby told investigators that she gave the check in question to Doss and only Doss.
“She is the only one who had the checks. The only person who had copies of those checks. It’s obvious that Lynn is the only one with copies of the checks from Fannin County. If Mark Thomason has a copy of them it came to him from Lynn Doss. In March Lynn comes in and asks me for a copy of the third quarter, second, third and fourth quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016 of Judge Bradley’s checks. She said I have gotten word the FBI is going to be looking into this and they will probably call me so if you will just go ahead and get those for me I will have them when they contact me. I got her the copies and sent them to her. She sent me an email and said could I go ahead and give her the other two judges just for the sake of not singling any one judge out. Something to that effect. She emailed me. Kirby said Doss never came back and said anything about the FBI investigation. “
Kirby was asked if the FBI had made any requests to the commissioner’s office?
“No, and that is what’s strange to me as well.”
Kirby recounted a meeting with investigators between Doss, Simonds, and herself concerning who Doss gave the checks to and how she knew they had been cashed. “ When Bill got a copy of the Open Records Request that Thomason sent Chairman Rob Jones in Pickens County, Lynn came in and was in Bill’s office. Kirby went into Bill’s office and sat down. Lynn read a copy of the email and told Bill she needed to talk to him about this. She needed to explain. She said this is crazy (Lynn), I could kill Mark Thomason (jokingly). All I know about this is ‘Mark Thomason received copies of these checks from Rita,’ and I (Kirby) stopped her. I said “No, Lynn, No he didn’t.” “I thought I had given him those checks but I didn’t. I went back to verify that. I did not give those checks to Mark Thomason, you are the only one I gave those checks too. She said (Lynn) I’m not sure how he got them.”
The reasoning behind the investigation is there is a problem about ‘if’ the checks have been cashed and they’re not supposed to be cashed. Lynn said on the back of the check in the upper left hand corner on Judge Bradley’s checks there are numbers that go across and we understand and were told it was a teller override. (Rita said) I told her that was not a teller override and Lynn said, I spoke to Ruth Jordan and she told me that it was a teller override.
Kirby said she was in the room when Simonds asked Doss who she gave the checks to. “Doss told Bill she gave the checks to Stookey who is Mark Thomason’s Attorney. At that point Bill looked at her and said, “you did what?” She said it’s open records and I gave them to Stookey. She said it’s no different than me giving a phone number to an attorney without asking if she could give the number out. Bill said that ain’t quite the same thing.”
Kirby implied throughout the interview that she feels that Doss shares county information with Thomason.
Did Ruth Jordan tell Lynn Doss that the checks appeared to have been cashed because of the numbers on the back of the check? Jordan is the Blue Ridge Branch Manager of Community & Southern Bank.
DA Investigators O’Dell and Arp interviewed Jordan. Jordan immediately let them know she could not answer questions for the bank but she could talk about procedural issues.
If we show you the back of the check could you tell us if it’s a teller override?
Jordan, “You would not be able to tell anything about the back of the check, I think that is the whole issue somebody doesn’t understand.”
So you couldn’t look at the back of the check and tell if it’s a teller override?
Jordan, “This is what I told everyone I did have a conversation with but I have not had a conversation with any attorney.”
So you haven’t talked with Miss Doss?
Jordan, “Concerning the back of the check in question, “this is a routing number, that is all that is.”
Investigator Odell, is there anything on the back of the check that you can tell that it’s been
cashed, deposited, whatever….?
“Procedural-wise, as far as Community and Southern’s bank policy, a check like that should never be cashed. That’s a business check. It’s a business check. One person does not have ownership of that check. So that check should have been deposited. Now, there is a For Deposit Only here. There is nothing on the back of this check that can tell you the check has been cashed, deposited, you can’t tell anything. There is nothing back there to tell that. It’s a routing number, branch number and teller number.”
Investigator, The only reason you are here is because your name specifically has come up as having a conversation with a certain attorney that has indicated that you were able to tell them from the back of that check. You have not had any conversation with Mrs. Doss regarding any of this?
Any conversation with Mrs. Doss regarding teller overrides? “No”
Jordan, “I have not spoken to Lynn Doss. I will not disclose anyone’s personal information. It’s not going to happen.”
When discussing the subpoena Jordan said, “I was shocked and amazed. I have never gotten a subpoena that was not served by an officer. If a deputy would have showed up with that subpoena it would have been filled out by someone before they got here with it. Generally when I get one on something like that they serve notice and generally they want someone to sign showing I received it. They were here literally wanting us to give them something and I’m like what, we don’t do that. I don’t think they understood. I was shocked that they had what looked like nearly a blank subpoena and I just said I don’t know anything about this. I don’t know what you’re looking for. You’re going to have to give me some information.”
Investigators showed Jordan the check that supposedly had been cashed illegally. Jordan said there was nothing on the check that indicated a teller override or that it had been cashed.
A check when deposited with a teller show the teller’s number so why not just go to the teller and ask if they cashed or deposited the check?
So why did Doss tell Simonds and Kirby that Jordan said the check appeared to be cashed? Who told Thomason the check appeared to be cashed? Remember that is what Thomason said in the email he sent Pickens County Commissioner Rob Jones. The email to Jones was an for an open records request. Who gave Thomason his information?
What about the FBI Investigation? In one witness interview with “Mr. X” he tells Arp and O’Dell that there are two FBI agents doing the investigation. FYN has learned the name of one FBI Agent, Jamie Harter.
Mr. X told Arp and O’Dell the following: Scott Kiker told me that a whistleblower came to Mark Thomason. Kiker would never tell me who the whistleblower was. Only thing Kiker told me was that the whistleblowers had been granted immunity from prosecution. There are two FBI agents.
Kiker said the reason he got involved was he and Thomason had to sign a paper before the FBI would investigate. They had to sign a paper saying that Mark had asked them to come up here. Thomason told Kiker he was afraid to sign it without some legal representation so he requested Scott Kiker to be his legal representation and then he signed the thing and gave it back to the FBI.
So if Scott Kiker is Thomason’s legal counsel concerning the FBI investigation does he know who the whistleblower is? Does he know whom the FBI offered immunity? FYN has reached out to Lynn Doss and Scott Kiker with a list of questions. At the time of this article they have not responded. At the bottom of this article you will see a list of questions we have asked both Doss and Kiker. We will post their answers as soon as they respond.
Remember the attempt to commit identity fraud in the indictment of Thomason. We found something very interesting in the DA’s file. It may be irrelevant but we feel it’s worth mentioning.
In this letter from Assistant District Attorney Chase G. Queen of the Enotah Judicial Circuit, Thomason may have committed identity fraud.
FYN would like to be clear regarding the allegations of “cashed checks” there hasn’t been any proof presented at this time which supports the claims of checks being cashed.
Below is the list of questions for Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss and Fannin County Probate Judge Scott Kiker.
I have reviewed the entire file including listening to all of the witness interviews in the case that was dropped last week against Mark Thomason and Russell Stookey.
- One witness stated that Thomason had to sign a form and send it back to the FBI before they would look into Thomason’s complaint. The witness stated that he (Thomason) brought the paperwork to you and I understand you signed as Thomason’s Attorney. Did you sign a document along with Mark Thomason that was sent back to the FBI?
- Have you spoken to or met with the FBI?
- Have you and Lynn Doss ever spoken with or met with the FBI together?
- Did Lynn Doss tell you she was speaking with the FBI? When was the first time you knew that Lynn Doss was involved with the FBI investigation?
- One witness said that you told him there was a whistleblower at UCBI and the FBI has granted this person immunity from prosecution. How are you aware of this information? Who told you (Mark Thomason, Lynn Doss, FBI…)? Do you know the identity of the whistleblower?
- One witness said that when he confronted you about the whistleblower and UCBI you said it was a rumor Mark Thomason started. Is it a rumor?
- Did you represent Greg Joseph Staffins in a shoplifting case in Union County?
- Does the Fannin County Probate Court have or use investigators?
- Has Mark Thomason ever worked for the Probate Court as an investigator?
- Are you aware that allegedly Mark Thomason went into the Blairsville Wal-Mart and identified himself to Wal-Mart employee Jeff Griffin as an investigator for the Fannin County Probate Court specifically Judge Scott Kiker’s Investigator?
- According to Jeff Griffin, Thomason asked to see Wal-Mart case reports on the shoplifting case against Greg Joseph Staffins. Was your office ever contacted by the Union County DA’s office inquiring about Thomason’s relationship to the Probate Court and yourself?
I am working on an article concerning a possible FBI investigation you discussed in a recent interview. I have listened to the witness interview from the Mark Thomason-Russell Stookey case and have several questions.
- You said you have communicated with the FBI 3 times. Were those phone conversations or meetings?
- Did you provide the FBI with any Fannin County documents?
- At any time did you make the Fannin County Chairman Bill Simonds aware of your involvement with an FBI investigation?
- Who (name) did you talk to at the FBI?
- Did you give the checks in question to Russell Stookey or Mark Thomason?
- Did you contact the FBI first?
- Did Ruth Jordan tell you the numbers on the check showed the checks had been cashed?
- Did you tell Chairman Simonds, with Rita Kirby present, that you gave the checks to Stookey and that Ruth Jordan told you the checks had an override number on them indicating they had been cashed?
- Did you tell Mark Thomason the checks appeared to have been cashed?
- Have you ever had a conversation with Scott Kiker concerning the FBI investigation in this matter?
- Has Scott Kiker or Mark Thomason shared with you the name of the whistleblower?
- Have you signed any paperwork with the FBI?
The Gilmer High School wrestling team honored its state champions and place winners with a new wall plaque in the Noah Harris Center, dedicated during the Area 7-AAAA tournament held at GHS this past weekend. (more…)
On July 16th, FYN reported a drop in the tax digest of 15.4 percent for the county and 17.9 percent for the board of education. (more…)