Hart County Board of Commissioners

March 22nd, 2004

Public Hearing

5:30 p.m.

The Hart County Board of Commissioners met March 22nd, 2004 at 5:30 p.m. in the Hart County Administrative & Emergency Services Center.

Chairman Daniel Reyen presided with Commissioners R C Oglesby, Randy Banister, Ricky Carter and Joey Dorsey in attendance.

1.      Call to Order

Chairman Reyen called the meeting to order and stated the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the VFW’s beer & wine license.

Commissioner Oglesby asked Interim Administrator Caime if the VFW’s beer & wine license application was in order. IA Caime reported that there are several issues with the applicant.

Sheriff Mike Cleveland presented findings from the investigation of the allegations made by Donald Powell. He reported that the Sheriff’s Department contacted the GBI, which referred them to the Department of Revenue. He reported that there is nothing prosecutable per the GBI or the Department of Revenue.

Sheriff Cleveland stated that it would be in the best interest of the county to re-issue a beer and wine license to the VFW, which would allow the Sheriff’s Department to go into the establishment without a search warrant. He said that if the private club does not have a license the Sheriff’s Department would not have a right to go in and members could brown bag all their beverages.

12th District Commander Dewayne Epps reported that the VFW does a lot of work for the community such as: scholarships, donating funds to purchase ball fields in Athens, and other special projects as needed.

Donald Powell remarked that the Sheriff was correct with his report that there have not been any fights or drugs reported at the local VFW post. He said there are other problems at the VFW and hopefully they can get them resolved so they can operate within the law.

Commissioner Oglesby questioned Mr. Powell if he is still going to remain a member of the VFW. Mr. Powell remarked that he is not giving up his membership.

Commissioner Banister asked Mr. Powell how many years he has been a veteran and how many years he has been a member of the VFW. He responded that he has been a member of the VFW since 1982 in California, North Carolina, Vermont and Hartwell. He said he served in the US Navy for 23 years and retired as an officer and that he is not willing to risk his reputation and career as the license holder for the VFW.

Commissioner Oglesby questioned Mr. Powell if he was aware of any problems prior to making application for renewal of the license in November. Mr. Powell responded that the problems started in October but did not come to a head until February. He said he reported illegal activities to Commander Jerry Teasley but he did not bring the problems up at their regular meeting.

Commissioner Banister remarked that it appears that Mr. Powell did everything through the proper procedures to reconcile the problems internally.

Commissioner Dorsey asked if the situation started with a personal dispute. Mr. Powell responded it was not a personal dispute until December 10th, 2003 when his neighbor took his daughter’s pet cat. 

Commissioner Carter asked Mr. Powell if the same situations were to occur again would he request to remove his name as license holder. Mr. Powell responded that he would respond a little bit differently.

Chairman Reyen asked Mr. Powell if he discussed the situation at the VFW with someone else prior to surrendering the license. Mr. Powell responded that he talked with Mr. Teasley.

Commissioner Banister asked Mr. Powell what his ultimate purpose is for the VFW. Mr. Powell responded that he would like to promote the local VFW.

Commissioner Banister remarked that Mr. Powell approached him and told him about the VFW’s involvement in the community and he was very impressed with what they do.

Commissioner Carter asked what the voice of democracy is. Mr. Powell responded that it is a program for young people.

Commissioner Banister asked how many members the local VFW has. Mr. Powell responded that they have 79 dues paying members.

VFW member Allen Swanger reported that Mr. Powell has been trying to turn the local establishment into the VFW and not a beer joint. He said the VFW is a great organization and that Powell has refused to break the law. He said Powell was told, “this is Georgia and it doesn’t work that way”.

Commissioner Banister asked if there are other members of the VFW that are not veterans. Mr. Swanger responded that there are. He said that the members of the VFW are allowed to have guests and that 90% of the members are non-veterans.

VFW member Terrell Chapman reported that the VFW has always been involved in activities and have filed trustee reports.

Commander Jerry Teasley stated that illegal activities had been going on at the VFW and that they are a small club and they do bend the rules a little bit. However, they do not mean to cause any harm. He stated that Mr. Powell never brought up any problems at their meetings. He stated that Mr. Powell is a good man and that he apologized for causing any problems for the commissioners.

Chairman Reyen asked Mr. Teasley how often does the VFW hold meetings and why as commanding officer that he did not bring the issue up at their meeting. Mr. Teasley responded that they meet once a month.

Commissioner Banister asked Mr. Teasley if he realized that the sale of liquor in the county and buying purchasing beer from local retailers is illegal. Mr. Teasley responded that Miller Brewing Company would not deliver beer to the VFW since they did not sell a large amount. He said that he thought they could serve alcohol on Sunday as long as no money changed hands. He also stated that Mr. Powell has personal issues and is trying to close the VFW down.

Commissioner Banister asked Mr. Teasley if he is willing to make sure the VFW complies with the county ordinance. Mr. Teasley responded that he would be willing to operate in compliance if the county allows them to get their license back.

Lester Vetter reported that he visited the VFW once and witnessed the bartender drinking on the job.

District Commander Epps reported that there would be an inspection of the Hartwell VFW post on Saturday in response to Mr. Powell’s allegations performed by him and two other members.

Commissioner Carter asked Mr. Epps if they make sure that the local post is following county and state laws. Mr. Epps responded that the group would audit the VFW’s financial records.

Commissioner Carter requested a copy of the findings from Mr. Epps.

Commissioner Oglesby entertained a motion to adjourn the hearing. Commissioner Dorsey provided a second to the motion.

Commissioner Banister remarked that the members of the VFW need to rectify the situation.

Chairman Reyen remarked that at the previous meeting the motion was to hold a hearing and make a decision. However, no decision was reached at the hearing. Commissioner Dorsey remarked that the meeting was not advertised to make a decision but that the intent was to hear issues.

Commissioner Oglesby entertained a motion to consider the beer & wine application for the VFW at the first regular scheduled meeting in April; waive all fees, signs and advertisement. Commissioner Dorsey provided a second to the motion. The motion carried 5-0.

Commissioner Oglesby entertained a motion to adjourn the hearing. Commissioner Dorsey provided a second to the motion. The motion carried 5-0.

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Daniel W. Reyen, Chairman                                    Lawana Kahn, County Clerk