County Commissioner Jessie Smith’s Involvement with Code Enforcement on Marcell Baker

Published 9:48 pm Monday, June 3, 2024

Marcell Baker was ordered to appear in magistrate court on August 14th, 2023, for the following charge: “[Allowing] grass, weeds, plant growth, annuals, or vegetation in excess of 12 inches in height for more than seven days, with the exception of trees, shrubs that are reasonably maintained, and cultivated flowers and gardens.”

The date given for the offense was July 21rst, 2023. Exhibit B was labeled Mrs. Tyler’s Case report, referring to former code enforcement officer Heather Beamon, formerly Heather Tyler. “A complaint was submitted to the Code Enforcement office in November of 2022 by Mr. Andrew Owen in reference to a property adjoining his being overgrown and Mr. Owen feeling that it could be dangerous.”

The report details that the area in question was wet and difficult to mow. Eventually, Baker put up a fence. “Mr. Baker asked about putting a fence up to remedy the situation and I did advise Mr. Baker that once a fence is placed on a property, I no longer can legally access the property or take any photos due to laws dealing with Code Enforcement in the state of Georgia. This does not matter if I can see through the fence or not, photos cannot be taken. Without photo evidence taken by myself, a court case will not stand.”

Beamon gave further details. “Mr. Baker notified me on July 21rst that a fence had been put into place and I considered this case closed due to my not being able to enter the property or take photos. On this same day, Commissioner Smith called Chief Harmon to tell him that a complaint was still being made and all of the growth was still visible. Chief Harmon explained to Commissioner Smith that once the fence was put into place, there was nothing else that this office could do.”

Despite code enforcement’s assertions, Smith continued to press the issue according to Tyler’s report. “Commissioner Smith continued to tell Chief Harmon that a citation needed to be served in reference to this case. Chief Harmon let Commissioner Smith know that I had spoken with the County attorney in regards to this and that the County attorney had advised me that there is no case to serve a citation for at this point and that the court case would be a loss. Commissioner Smith told Chief Harmon that a citation had to be served by 5:00 that Friday no matter what and that if we lose the case, then we lose the case and that is what we have a county attorney for.”

Judge Crystal Cleveland declared Marcell Baker not guilty.

Recently Commissioner Jessie Smith responded. When I asked if he encouraged Heather Beamon to cite someone he responded: “No, I never did do that. The only thing that I ever encouraged Miss Tyler, at the time, was to do her job, whatever that entailed.”

He made further clarifications: “I didn’t file a complaint, that complaint was filed by one of my other constituents.”

When asked what encouraging Beamon to do her job entailed, he responded: “Whatever the law is saying, whatever is supposed to be done, just do your job. Get back with people, and let them know what’s going on.” He claimed that she had a problem with reaching back out to constituents.

Smith mentioned what he considered excuses. “She started coming up with other [kinds] of excuses, from one excuse to the other. He done put a fence up out there. I can’t take no more pictures, I looked at the law and the law read different.”

When asked if her response was appropriate if those were valid legal reasons, he responded: “If they were valid.”

He disputed whether the fencing used by Baker was sufficient: “It was a little chicken wire fence, about a foot high. That’s not considered a privacy fence in my opinion.”

When I asked if he had ever ordered someone to give a citation he replied: “I don’t have the authority to do that, and if I did that, they don’t have to do it. They don’t work for me. They work for the County Administrator.”