Top court rules former fire captain should be reinstated
The Supreme Court of Georgia has upheld a lower court’s ruling ordering DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis and Fire Rescue Chief Eddie O’Brien to reinstate Sell Caldwell III to his former position as a fire captain.
According to a summary released by the court, in February 2010, the county’s former Fire Chief David Foster dismissed Caldwell following a house fire in Dunwoody in which an elderly woman died. Caldwell was terminated for failing to locate the dispatch address and failing to take command of the scene.
After Caldwell appealed to the DeKalb County Human Resources and Merit System Department, a hearing officer determined the fire department had made factual errors in firing Caldwell, and he reversed Caldwell’s termination.
The county later appealed the decision to reverse Caldwell’s termination to the Merit System Council, which unanimously upheld the hearing officer’s decision. However, despite the rulings, the county refused to reinstate Caldwell to his former job.
Caldwell then took his case to court, where a DeKalb Superior Court judge ordered the county to give Caldwell his job back and ruled that because the county had been “unnecessarily litigious” by not reinstating Caldwell despite the administrative rulings, the county would have to pay for Caldwell’s legal fees.
The county then appealed to the state Supreme Court, asserting that Caldwell did not have a legal right to the remedies the trial court ordered.
In in the Supreme Court’s opinion, handed down on Jan. 9, Justice Hugh Thompson said, “It is disingenuous for the county to argue that although the Code allows ‘reversal’ of the chief’s decision, it does not contemplate reinstatement…By definition, reversal of a termination constitutes reinstatement.”
Dog owner received 16-month jail sentence for pit bull attack
A Lithonia woman was sentenced on Jan. 6 to 16 months in jail for a pit bull attack in which a little girl lost part of an arm.
Twyann Vaughn, the owner of the two dogs that attacked the girl, was convicted of two counts each of reckless conduct, violation of the vicious dog act, and violation of the rabies ordinance.
Vaughn was sentenced to 16 months in jail, three years of probation, 240 hours of community service and restitution. Upon release of jail, Vaughn has been ordered to become an advocate for better animal control.
The victim, Erin Ingram, a Rock Chapel Elementary School student, who was 8 years old at the time, was attacked by the two pit bulls while playing in her neighborhood on March 9, 2010.
Man found dead at motel
A maid cleaning a room at the Super 8 motel on Lawrenceville Highway in Tucker found the body of Black man, according to DeKalb County Police. The body was found at approximately 12:50 p.m. on Jan. 8; the death has been ruled a homicide. No further information was immediately available.
Group demonstrates in opposition of cell towers
A group of concerned parents, residents and PTA members gathered at Briarlake Elementary School on Jan. 7 to show their opposition to constructing cell towers on the school’s property.
The members marched to a local T-Mobile store in protest. The demonstration was organized by members of No Briarlake Tower LLC. According to the group’s president, Stephanie Byrne, “the purpose of the demonstration [was] to generate awareness and give citizens the opportunity to show how they feel about T-Mobile taking advantage of a loophole in our local zoning.”
Last year, the DeKalb County School Board voted to allow T-Mobile to install 150-foot cell phone towers at nine schools, including Briarlake Elementary. Originally, the plan proposed 12 towers but after public input sessions the school system whittled the list down to nine.