Citizen Says EMS Ordinance Unconstitutional

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Is the Pickens County EMS Ordinance unconstitutional? Citizen and Representative Jeff Anderson says it is. During the October commissioner’s meeting, Anderson asked Sole Commissioner Robert Jones when the county will remove the ordinance, calling it unconstitutional. “Ours was passed in 97’,” Anderson noted, “and it’s horrible and what it allows the government to do to the citizens!” He went on to say that he wants to replace the current Pickens Emergency Management System ordinance with the one Fannin County recently passed.

In August, Fannin County citizens protested its proposed EMS ordinance. In addition to the authority granted to the commission chairman in the state of emergency, which included defining a state of emergency, citizens were concerned about property and individual rights violations, noting such violations are unconstitutional.

Fannin resident John Foster opposed the section of the ordinance granting the county the authority to enter upon a citizen’s private property. Here, Foster referenced the 2005 Katrina Flood in New Orleans. He said in the Katrina scenario, the police confiscated everyone’s guns.

“Well, then,”

he said,

“you didn’t have a way of protecting yourself from the bad guys.”

Citizen David Crawford also mentioned his opposition to the violation of property rights, in addition to the authority the county would have for illegal search and seizure.

Other concerns dealt with enforcement during periods of marshal law. According to the ordinance, if a state of emergency is declared, which can either come from the governor or the board of commissioner chairman, marshal law would ensue. One citizen had concerns with the main section on page four, which deals with penalties, stating: Any person who violates any provision in this chapter shall, upon conviction thereof, be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1,000, imprisonment not exceeding 60 days, or both such fine and imprisonment, for each violation.

“If they find you guilty of two or three misdemeanors,”

he said,

“you’re going to wind up in jail for quite a long time without a jury of your peers deciding whether you’re guilty or not.”

Following a series of public hearings, the Fannin Board of Commissioners worked with citizens to address these concerns, scrapped the proposed ordinance, and replaced it with one based on the recommendations by the citizens. During the first reading of the new ordinance resident Joe Webb commented that he approved of the revised version.

The Fannin BOC delivered a second reading of the new ordinance in October. According to City Clerk Rita Kirby, no changes were made between the first and second readings. The ordinance was passed, Kirby said.

During last week’s Pickens County Commissioner’s meeting, County Attorney Phillip Landrum III confirmed that the current Pickens County EMS ordinance is the same one GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency) uses.

“The Association of County Commissioners (ACCG),”

Landrum said,

“is working on a model ordinance that will take care of those concerns. As soon as that is finished, we will put it in (place).”

Landrum, however, did not give an expected due date for a revised ordinance.

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