First on 12: Code enforcement officer fighting termination shares his story

By: Katie Beasley Email
By: Katie Beasley Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / July 11, 2012

MARTINEZ, Ga. -- He's the Columbia County code enforcement officer fired for walking into a woman's home uninvited.

The county terminated officer Jimmy Vowell, saying he broke policy and lied to supervisors. Now Vowell is speaking out, fighting to keep his job and telling his side of the story.

"This has been a very trying week," with tears in his eyes, Jimmy Vowell is finally speaking out.

"People who know me and know who I am know what kind of person I am,"

This week Vowell was fired as a Columbia County code enforcement officer after he was caught on camera entering a woman's home as she slept.

"The next thing I woke up and there's a man standing in my door way and he's yelling at me that I need to get up and I need to come outside and sign this violation notice," Erica Masters tells News 12.

Surveillance cameras show Vowell knock on the front door, When it swings open, he peeks in. He says what he saw and smelled had him worried.

"What I saw, the living conditions in that house were deplorable. I remember that there was scattered litter all over the floor," describes Vowell.

Vowell says he was worried either the home was abandoned, or someone was in trouble. So he walks in, and down the hall to Erica Master's bedroom.

"This had indication that, in my opinion, something was awry. Just, just a gut feeling that something was not right in the interior of this residence," says Vowell.

"Why not call 911?" News 12's Katie Beasley asks. "Well ma'am we deal with foreclosures and properties that are walked away from in Columbia County all the time," Vowell responds.

According to supervisors, Vowell first denied being inside the home, then called the situation "BS" when he was caught on camera.

"I think a lot of that was taken out of context. When I'm thinking somebody's accusing me of going in a house, they're talking about burglarizing a house and I've never burglarized a house," Vowell adds.

Now Vowell plans to fight his termination, appealing that he did the right thing. "What I did was in the scope of what I believed to be the right thing to do as a county servant," he states.

"If someone had been hurt, disabled, or needed help, he would have been a hero," explains Vowell's attorney Vic Hawk.

"I feel that it's time to stick up for what I believe in," adds Vowell.

Vowell says he was at the home for the second time, responding to the 4th complaint of an unruly lawn. The Sheriff's Office says they found no criminal intent in this case and so no charges were filed.

Ms. Masters plans to file a lawsuit against the county.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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