News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012
MARTINEZ, Ga. -- It's been nearly four months since a Columbia County code enforcement officer made national headlines. He was fired for walking into a woman's home without permission.
Jimmy Vowell continues to fight to get his job back, and he's sitting down with News 12. Vowell says he wishes he could roll back the hands of time. He says being out of a job for the last four months has been tough.
He lost his job after he was caught on surveillance camera walking into a Martinez home uninvited.
"It's just been an exhausting four and half months," Vowell said.
In July, former Code Enforcement officer Vowell was serving a yard maintenance violation. When the door to the house swung open, Vowell says he thought someone was in trouble.
Turns out, the homeowner, Erica Masters, was asleep inside.
"I've lost a job that I love. I loved being a servant of Columbia County. I loved helping the people of Columbia County," Vowell said.
The county said he failed to follow policy by going in the home and made a false statement to a supervisor.
"I was criticized through the media and people's perception of what events took place, that's why I was thankful to get in front of a six-man panel," he said.
Last week Vowell and his attorney took his fight before the Columbia County Civil Service Commission, where they ruled in his favor saying, "After considerable and lengthy deliberation, we find that the termination was too severe. Given the circumstances of this case, we feel the action against you was too excessive."
"I was very humbled and thankful that that decision came as it did. I would have expected some sort of discipline to be handed down, that would have been a better pill to swallow than losing everything," Vowell said.
They added, "It is up to the county, but the Civil Service Commission recommends finding a position in another department and/or demotion."
"Where this leads, I don't really know," Vowell said.
On Tuesday, the Development Services Department Director appealed the decision from the civil commission, meaning the appeal will now head to the full county Board of Commissioners. They will now have the final say in the matter.
Vowell's attorney, Vic Hawk, says they are prepared to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the county if it gets to that point.
We also heard from the homeowner. Masters says she still believes the termination was necessary. She tells us she plans to sue Columbia County, too, and may even file a civil suit against Vowell himself.