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Worth officials in middle of ex-employee's discontent

Marilynn Mims’ granddaughters Kendal, 8, left, and Rileigh James, 5, loved to ride on Mims’ quarterhorse “Tarbaby.” The horse was attacked by a dog and had to be put down, sparking a controversy in Worth County that has county commissioners choosing sides.

Marilynn Mims’ granddaughters Kendal, 8, left, and Rileigh James, 5, loved to ride on Mims’ quarterhorse “Tarbaby.” The horse was attacked by a dog and had to be put down, sparking a controversy in Worth County that has county commissioners choosing sides.

SYLVESTER -- It's hard to keep track of all her concerns as Marilynn Mims runs down an extensive laundry list of complaints she's leveled against the five-person Worth County Commission and other county officials.

The county's former Animal Control officer intimates there is collusion among board members, that she was let go by the county because she ruffled the feathers of citizens who had the ear of certain commissioners, and she suggests a contractor in the county may have been given a construction job by his brother, who happens to manage the county's Public Works department.

But at the root of all these complaints and accusations is a deep hurt that Mims feels every day as she looks at photos of her beloved quarterhorse "Tarbaby."

Mims said she knew something was wrong on Oct. 9 when she went outside and whistled for Tarbaby.

"All I had to do was whistle," she said, "and he'd come running."

The horse didn't respond on this Sunday afternoon, so Mims went to investigate. What she found still haunts her.

"I went down to where Tarbaby was, and he had blood all over his face and body," she said. "He was having difficulty walking. I heard something and looked over to where a dog was standing. He was covered in blood. I called the vet, and a while later I called Animal Control. I knew the protocol: If there is damage enough to seek medical attention, Animal Control is supposed to be there."

The vet came and tended to Tarbaby as best he could, although his efforts would be to no avail. The next day, Mims had the horse she'd owned for 15 years put down.

But the call to Animal Control went unheeded, according to Mims.

"They never showed up," she said. "I called 911 and asked if they were sending Animal Control, but I was told that since I didn't have the dog that had attacked my horse, no one was coming."

The saga took on deeper meaning for Mims two weeks later when she says Animal Control officials showed up at her southeast Worth County home accompanied by a deputy from the Worth Sheriff's office.

"I asked the deputy what he was doing there, and he said he was told to come," Mims said. "I asked if 911 or Environmental Health or Animal Control told him he was needed, and he said no. I asked him who told him to come, and he said it was a county commissioner. I asked him which one, and he said Bettye Bozeman.

"Now, we've got a county that's supposedly broke, but one of our commissioners is sending a deputy out here on overtime, I guess because I was some kind of threat."

Mims, who had been Worth's only Animal Control officer after county voters approved funding for the position through a special sales tax referendum, had had a rocky tenure as a county employee. She started work with Animal Control in 2006 but says she was "furloughed" when budgeted funds for her department were depleted in June of this year.

A seperation notice signed by Worth County Clerk Felicia Smith on June 9 says Mims had been laid off, citing: "Funds depleated (sic) until next budget year starting in July."

"I was fine with that decision. They said I'd be called back once the next fiscal year budget kicked in," Mims said.

But Mims was never called back. In fact, she said that she learned her job was "vacant" when she saw it advertised in the county newspaper, The Sylvester Local News.

"I was told that I had to re-apply for the job and that I'd be granted an interview," Mims said. "I thought that was a formality, so I set up an interview. I went in, and they talked with me for eight minutes. I found out a short while later they'd given the job to someone else (Sherri Hendley).

"There were requirements -- like being licensed to euthanize animals -- that I had that no one else who applied did. But I was told later that the way they did this is the way the county attorney said they should get rid of employees they don't want around."

Two Worth commissioners -- District 4's Billy McDonald and District 2's Mack Sutton -- said they were as surprised as Mims when they heard she'd been terminated.

"I hadn't heard a word that they were hiring someone else in that position until I saw the advertisement in the newspaper," McDonald, who has served on the Worth Commission for 16 years, eight as chairman, said. "I was shocked at the way they'd done this. That's just not the way a county's supposed to operate.

"And even if they were going to go through this process of interviewing people for the job, there was no one who interviewed who came close to being as qualified as Ms. Mims."

Sutton echoes his colleague's concerns.

"What happened to Marilynn is just unbelievable," he said. "She wasn't treated right. I can't help but believe some people on this board retaliated against Ms. Mims because she did the right thing. She wasn't treated right because she stood up to people."

Mims says she's certain she was muscled out of her taxpayer-funded position because she picked up animals of citizens who were friends of Bozeman and Commission Chairman Matt Medders. Both deny the accusations.

"What she's saying is absolutely not true," Bozeman, who represents District 3 in the county, said. "If you want to know the truth of the matter, (Mims) treated people like dirt. She didn't get along with anybody, and when she overshot her budget Matt had to move her.

"She was never promised her job back, and after we advertised the job and conducted interviews we hired the person who we thought would do the best job. I can tell you this: When (Mims) was in charge of Animal Control, about 98 percent of the complaint calls we got were about her. And we haven't had any complaints since we hired (Hendley)."

Medders, too, dismisses Mims' complaints.

"All advertisements and decisions regarding the position of Animal Control officer were followed according to requirements of the law," Medders wrote in an email response to a request for comment on the accusations made by Mims, McDonald and Sutton. "This accusation is nothing more than that of a former disgruntled employee, and all records pertaining to such are well-documented."

Mims indicated that the county's decision to hire Hendley and turn Animal Control services over to the local Best Friends Humane Society may have been a conflict of interest since Medders was previously on the board of that organization.

"In the effort to provide quality Animal Control services at the greatest benefit financially to our local taxpayers, the Worth County Board of Commissioners and the city of Sylvester contracted with Best Friends Humane Society to provide such services for both the city and the county," Medders wrote. "They have done an outstanding job; their leadership and professionalism have just been phenomenal. Not to mention the complaints with Animal Control have decreased significantly.

"This joint venture has been a huge success for the county as well as the city of Sylvester."

Bozeman said Mims is wrong in accusing Public Works Director John Merritt of misconduct because Merritt's brother James's construction company was hired to work on the damaged drainfield at the county-owned animal shelter.

"If you go back to 2007 when that facility was being built, the county only built the shell of that building and did the cement work," Bozeman said. "When there was no money available to finish the project, the Humane Society came in and finished the project. They paid for the well and the septic system; there was no taxpayer money used.

"The cement work and the shell of the building were financed through SPLOST IV funds, but the other work was paid for by the Humane Society. They were free to hire who they wanted."

Bozeman then addressed accusations by McDonald and Sutton that she, Medders and District 1 Commissioner Tony Hall were meeting outside the guidelines set by state law to predetermine issues on the agenda.

"That's not true at all," she said. "Everything that has been done by this board has been above-board and open. I will tell you that if I personally go into a room and see two other commissioners there, I turn around and walk the other way.

"I find it strange that Mr. McDonald would make such an accusation since he is about to be investigated for the same thing."

But McDonald and Sutton remain firm in their support of Mims.

"To me, what happened to Marilynn was retaliation," Sutton said. "It's a sad state that when someone found out it was her that called 911 when her horse was attacked, that Animal Control was told not to respond. It shouldn't matter who called 911, that service is for all the citizens of this county. Now we have people comparing the board to a circus.

"What went on here is just not right. Marilynn didn't just lose a horse, she lost part of her family. All she's got now is pictures, trophies and memories of that special animal. Some of the people (with Animal Control) are asking what happened to her horse. We know what happened; we weren't born yesterday."

McDonald, meanwhile, said he's concerned at the direction the county government is taking.

"I've been a part of this board for a number of years, and I've never seen things so unorganized," the commissioner, who is a farmer, said. "I just don't know what's going on any more.

"This situation with Ms. Mims, it seems to me that the only thing she did wrong is pick up somebody's dog that had strong connections (with county officials). Now we've got a $90,000 facility that we're hardly using, and we're spending taxpayer money that's totally unnecessary. I just don't know what's going on here."

For her part, Mims said she holds no ill feelings toward Hendley and the Animal Control department. But she does offer an ominous parting thought.

"That dog killed my horse, and nothing was done about it," she said. "And they can use whatever excuse they want to, but it's still out there. My question now is what are they going to do when that dog attacks a child?"

Comments

Justice4Moma 2 years, 11 months ago

In Worthy Manor we have a couple people who think they own this place.Laws are being broken,and things are not being done by the Oath of Office they take.I think she done very well at her job out here.It just we have one women in here that thinks she is GOD.She does no wrong to hear her tell it.And that is wrong.I myself have had problems with this one women,and she gets away with everything.It s not right.And some of the people out here use such words toward her that not even the worst cusser knows.I have been threatened by this women who thinks she is God.As i have been from the one who lived in the same house beside me untill she sprayed me with insectacide.I went before a Grand jury,and got a felony indictment,and another mistamenor.And the Sheriffs office just let her leave town,this was in 97.When i called the DA to ask him when my case was going to court,that this lady was moving out of town,he told me"Well just be glad she is moving".I payed for warrants on this women,and did not get my money back,and she did not go to court.Now she is living in Lee County,and rides by my house at times just to let me know shes back.And this women told me she was going to burn my home down with us in it she hoped.I have the scars to prove it,plus problems with what ever she sprayed me with.So i have to agree that certain people get diffrent treatment.It s not right.We pay taxes out her like everyone else.We deserve the protection,and the law to do there job.

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billybob 2 years, 11 months ago

This comment is nearly unreadable due to the spelling and grammar errors. I understand some of those things are going to happen, but this is absurd. Commenter, I suggest having someone proof-read your work before hitting the 'submit' button. It might help people understand what you are trying to communicate.

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Justice4Moma 2 years, 11 months ago

Thank you,i will try and do better,you have a great day,and God Bless.And one more thing,some of us dont get as upset as i do when i write about the dirty deeds of those with power.Untill you have walked in my shoes dont put me down.You dont know me.But that is ok to.That is your loss.

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Unforgiven 2 years, 11 months ago

Well, Ive had my dogs picked up and Mims refused to release my dogs until the next because "She didnt have time to comfirm shots", which she told me at noon that day, At the shelter. (By the way, all they did was break loose from the tie outs.) So i had to pay a room and board fee because she didnt want to do her job. I called 911 a year and a half later in the early afternoon for a complaint with another dog which was destroying my property trying to get to my dog that was pinned up. Do you know what 911 told me? She was off that day. Hmmm, weekday around noon and no one to pick up animals. What a waste of my tax dollars.

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TrixibelleBento 2 years, 11 months ago

After reading everything above, the one thing I take away from the article is I feel bad about that horse. That's just sad. I can't tolerate anything bad done to an animal and the treatment of that situation is abominable. I don't care who she is, do your job and respond to her request for service.

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Oldguy 2 years, 11 months ago

I live in Worth county and animal control has been a joke for the 15 years I have lived here. There are stray dogs and cats throughout the county, even in downtown Sylvester. It seems that animal control works from about 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM 5 days a week when they are not on vacation or off for some other reason. They should be available 24/7 to handle vicious stray dogs and at least pick up the others.

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Trustbuster 2 years, 11 months ago

This sounds like typlical Worth Co. politicians. Some commissioners let their egos get in the way of progress. Ms. Mims was a very helpful person when we tried to locate our dog.

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cantkeepsilentanymore 2 years, 11 months ago

From being at the board meetings and reading the minutes and hearing the testimony from the 911 dispatcher, this complaint is nothing but sour grapes and a vendetta from a former employee and a commissioner who likes to stir up trouble. When the call came into 911, the dispatcher asked if the animal that attacked the horse was on site and was told no. The dispatcher asked if a veterinarian was on site and was told yes as well as Department of Health were there. There was nothing for Animal Control to do at that point. Commissioner Sutton suggested the animal control officer come out (when there was no light outside) and to search for a blood trail. Contrary to some convoluted beliefs, the Animal Control Officer isn't a tracker. However, when Commissioner McDonald was asked if it was possibly a coyote, he responded that he is an experienced hunter in that area and there are no coyotes. Anyone who has a lick of sense knows that is a false statement. If we have Commissioners with such hunting talents perhaps they should have tracked down whatever animal did the damage. There are not only coyotes but panthers and wild hogs as well as dogs that could have done this. It is terrible that the horse was attacked and suffered and had to be put down. What is terrible as well is Ms. Mims, commissioners McDonald and Sutton using this tragedy to try to keep trouble stirred up. It is no secret that this board does not get along or even work well together. The ones who are complaining are the ones who are causing the Board to be likened to a Circus. Commissioner McDonald is more concerned with another Board member possibly having more power than he does than with ensuring that citizens and their animals are protected. I applaud Attorney Clarence Miller's response to Commissioner McDonalds ridiculous claims with the statement "you have to have some common sense in these matters". What is equally unfair is Ms. Mims and the commissioners attempt to denigrade the job Sherri Hendley has been doing as the Animal Control Officer. She has more qualifications (veterinary tech) and more people skills than Ms. Mims and can do her job effectively. As for stray dogs roaming the streets, animal control only picks up animals that have had a complaint registered. How simple it is, you have a problem, call the person who can give an answer. Instead our commissioners choose to call the tv stations and bring all their half truths, rumors, lies and accusations in a Board of Commissioners meeting. Thanks to Chairman Matt Medders also in stating that the protocol is to call Shelly McPhaul if there are any problems with Animal Control. The Commissioners can't even follow their own protocol, much less common courtesies. I hope with all the animosity and troubles Worth County has had with the current Board, that a new working Board of Commissioners will be elected.

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aschippang 2 years, 11 months ago

I thought I had posted earlier, but don't know where it has gone to. So.. I'll try one more time. I agree that there have been issues with Worth County animal control. I've had my own with it in the past. However, I believe that most of those issues stem from lack of funding. When Ms. Mimms was the County ACO, she was the ONLY ACO and covered the entire county. Most of the time, she was not allowed to go over 40 hours weekly. The entire county can not be covered 24/7 with 40 hours of payroll. If her hours were expended, she had to shut down and go home. The Worth County facility was NOT a shelter. It was a small facility designed to simply house problem dogs, whether vicious or stray until they were claimed and bailed out, or their time ran out. There was only a short period of time that they could be held and that was not at Ms. Mimms' doings. Worth County had elected not to pay the small additional cost that would have allowed them to upgrade their license through the state of Georgia and be able to adopt animals out. I know there were personal issues between individuals in the county. However, regardless of all that in the past, Ms. Mimms is a tax-paying citizen of Worth County and should be afforded the same rights and protection as any other Worth County citizen. I'm concerned about any vicious animal roaming the county such as the dog that attacked Tar Baby. What if it attacked another animal, or God forbid...a child? It just doesn't sound to me like situation was addressed with the concern that it should have been.

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ameek86 2 years, 11 months ago

You are the only person in this thread with any sense. Everyone else is just making random statements to try and sound smart.

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rooste 2 years, 11 months ago

Betty Bozeman tries to stick her nose every where but where it belongs, stick to your district, don`t butt in on other districts

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Justice4Moma 2 years, 11 months ago

Worth County is no better than Albany.The people in office there have been there to long.And have it going just the way they like it.I live in Betty s district. And have had problems with 2 neighbors.The police have been called on both times.I even went before a Grand Jury and got indicments on one who sprayed me with insectacide(i know i cant spell) But the DA felt that since she was moving out of town,i should be happy,and not worrie.Well i payed for the warrants,i payed for the sparying also,now i have skin problems and have to see a Doctor because of it.And Guess what,The Women is back only living in Lee County.Yet she drove by my house this weekend.Her threats still scare me.But you all dont care.You all need to be replaced.If any harm comes to me from this person,i will make sure i get a Lawyer from out of this part of Georgia to handle it. The other neighbor has all of you in Worth County thinking she is no longer lving beside me.Well she is,and if you dont think so i have some swamp land to sell you.And my problem with her was that she did,and still does not take care of her animals,she had a horse and some how it s back leg got cut bad.She told them some kids came down and done it.She is right about that,i have there pictures,with them beating the horse,but they dont want to hear all that.She works for Albany so she is special.Well if her or her special kids come over my back fence one more time they may just get a shock.And that is not a threat.

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