Attorneys in Humane Society case expected in court Monday
Attorneys for the Walker County Humane Society and Jasper resident Marcus Campbell were scheduled to be in court on Monday morning to find out whether or not more information regarding their pending lawsuit can be released to the public or media.
The case stems from a situation that developed during May when a male boxer named Boost was brought in to the Walker County Humane Society by an elderly couple and euthanized within an hour of arriving. Originally, Walker County Humane Society Executive Director Lane Reno had been quoted as saying that Humane Society employees had been forced to use a catch pole in order to remove Boost from the pet taxi once an elderly couple dropped him off.
Reno was quoted as saying the elderly couple "had to bring him here in a pet taxi that they had to borrow” Reno is quoted to have went on to say. “The dog would not come out of the carrier so we had to use a capture pole. That is when he became aggressive.”
Following the release of the original quotes, the elderly couple in question came forward to give their side of the story, which contradicts Reno’s. Peggy Dunn and James Martin were the last known people to have contact with Boost before he was turned over to the Humane Society.
Dunn and Martin are neighbors of Campbell, the owner of Boost. They both said they spotted the dog roaming around their residence after returning home. Dunn said the dog first made contact with her. Both said they did have to go retrieve a pet taxi from the Humane Society, but only after they were instructed to do so by the Jasper Police Department.
Martin said he watched every move the dog made once unloaded at the Humane Society. From his account there was no sign of aggression or timid behavior coming from Boost.
Boost was euthanized approximately one hour after being brought to the shelter. Reno said in the original story she could not tell if the dog was a pet or a stray, therefore the boxer was put down.
On Wednesday, the attorney for the WCHS filed for an emergency motion for protective order and order to enjoin the plaintiff from disseminating information exchanged in discovery.
Campbell’s attorney, Brett Wadsworth, says he is of the opinion that this motion should have been filed before the discovery process. Wadsworth explains that this means "they want to keep us from sharing the video tapes and paper evidence that corroborates my client’s story and the story of the witnesses.” Wadsworth adds that he is filing a counter motion seeking to prevent the granting of that motion.”
Wadsworth filed a response to the motion for a protective order on Thursday, July 15. In the motion Wadsworth cites various reasons why the defense’s motion should be denied, one of which is the time frame in which the defense’s motion was filed.
Wadsworth said when the lawsuit was originally filed he asked for the video surveillance from the WCHS during the time Boost was allegedly dropped off.
The video shows the couple arriving at the Humane Society with a pet taxi in the back of a small pickup truck. The couple gets out of the truck and walks inside the building, returning a few moments later with what appears to be two WCHS employees. One possible employee, a male, is seen opening the pet taxi and is seen slipping what appeared to be a small leash around a dogs neck. The dog walks out of the pet taxi, hesitates momentarily before jumping off the tailgate and walking into the building with no sign of aggressive behavior at all.
The hearing was set for Monday in Judge Doug Farris’ courtroom at the Walker County Courthouse Annex.
Judge questions legality of Walker County bingo
A surprising revelation in the ever-evolving Walker County electronic bingo saga came out Friday when Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance questioned the legality of the way the games are played in the county.
Vance said that he is rapidly approaching an opinion that bingo, as played in Walker County, is illegal. Vance made the statement during an emergency hearing held at the Jefferson County Courthouse.
The hearing was called when Helping Hands Charity Bingo filed an injunction on Wednesday against Walker County Sheriff John Mark Tirey in response to an order handed down last week by Vance. The order forced Helping Hands and seven other Walker County bingo halls to limit their hours of operation due to a lack of charities.
Vance questioned the legality of the concept of a third-party operator. He said according to his interpretation of the 1993 Constitutional Amendment on Walker County bingo, a charity should not enter into an agreement with someone else to run bingo games. Also, Vance said the building and any equipment associated with bingo should be owned, rented or leased by the charity, according to his interpretation of the law.
During questioning in the hearing, Helping Hands owner Tommy Johnson stated that he owned the buildings that his business has operated in and said another associate with Helping Hands signed the lease for the bingo machines his business uses.
Vance stated that he also suspects every other bingo operator in Walker County is "in the same boat".
Vance did say that he found Helping Hands Charity Bingo to be operating illegally and could not side with the establishment’s injunction against Tirey.
Walker County District Attorney Charles Baker urged Vance to consider strict sanctions on Helping Hands.
Vance said that he would consider sanctions, but would take time to think about his decision. He said an order could be expected by early next week. He said if sanctions were handed down “Helping Hands won’t be the only one in the boat.”
Vance said he will focus on evidence and the law when making any decision and that he doesn't want to do anything unless he has the evidence.
Vandalism at APEX park leads to tighter curfews, security
On Friday morning, a group of children found obscene graffiti painted on several pieces of equipment at APEX, a local playground designed for the physically challenged.
When Mayor Sonny Posey heard the news, his response was stern and swift. He called for stricter enforcement of the curfews set for the city’s parks. Next week, signs will be posted that the parks close at 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and at 11 p.m. on the weekends.
Before the sun went down on the playground, surveillance system equipment was also delivered to Memorial Park Natatorium. Posey said if the vandals decide to come back, they should know that their every move will be watched. The mayor added that offenders who are caught for vandalism will be charged with criminal mischief.
Jennifer Smith, director of aquatics and special projects for Jasper, said that vandalism has been a problem at APEX since the playground opened in 2007, although the damage has become more frequent recently. Natatorium staff have had to clean up messes made when people knocked over port-a-potties, turned over garbage cans and scattered trash on the ground.
Smith said she could also recall three instances in which the playground equipment has been defaced with spray paint.
The offensive pictures that were drawn on the rock wall and slide this week were discovered by some children that were playing at APEX on Friday as part of their summer camp. One of the counselors informed staff at the Natatorium’s front desk about the problem.
Smith said it is rare for the graffiti at APEX to be as obscene as what was found Friday. When some older kids in the pool’s Club Nat summer program saw it, they were outraged.
Smith said she hopes the cameras that are going up at the playground and throughout the Natatorium will curb vandalism and another problem she has faced this summer — theft.
Personal belongings have been disappearing from the locker rooms and pool sides during operating hours more than ever.
Smith says she has trained the staff to keep their eyes open and encourages visitors to either keep their belongings with them or bring a lock for the lockers so she is excited about getting a surveillance system to help stop thieves as well.