Erica Masters, from Martinez, Georgia, woke up in her home to find a code enforcement officer standing in her bedroom doorway telling her to “get up” and that he was citing her for her grass being too tall. No, this is not a joke. Columbia County Code Compliance Officer Jimmy Vowell is caught on home surveillance video entering Ms. Masters’ home without invitation.
Masters pressed charges against Vowell and now she is suing the county as well.
Erica Masters said, “I’m really just not comfortable with where I am right now, so I’ve decided to press charges. At least to put my mind at ease. And to hopefully help keep other Columbia County citizens a little bit safer as well.”
Though Vowell can be seen knocking at the door, it was his decision to enter the home uninvited, which is a Fourth Amendment violation and is also a felony. According to Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson, “A Code Enforcement Officer must be invited into a home. They simply cannot enter without that invite. There are some circumstances where there may be extenuating circumstances where if it were a matter of life and death.” Vowel is on administrative leave until the investigation is complete.
“Administrative leave was probably a good start, but I’d really like to see this actually go somewhere,” said Masters. “I’d like to see some result within the county.”
This is not Vowell’s first time getting into trouble. He once worked for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. In 2004, Vowell resigned after admitting he took a computer from a property room.
“Jimmy Vowell needs to stop getting government jobs.” Masters said. “Our tax dollars are paying for a guy that is going beyond the law. He thinks he’s above the law and I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think my tax dollars should go to somebody that thinks he’s above the law.”
Once again, Masters seems to be a woman that is just having some difficulty in getting the lawn mowed. It should not be a crime for your grass to not be cut to a certain length. I do understand the idea of a community wanting to keep property value high and thus sometimes these things come into play. But what happened to neighbors looking out for each other? Could no one in the community drop by and ask if they could maybe give her a hand with her lawn? Was there no one in Ms. Masters’ community who sought to be charitable with their time and cut it for her or at least offer to allow here a working lawnmower? Like so many in our society, we see that government is being looked to in order to handle things that charitable neighbors once did simply because they cared.