Friday, March 27, 2009

AJC - Dog lover agrees to stay away from witnesses against him

If ever there was proof of why Gwinnett County's policy of prosecuting animal ordinances under criminal code this latest run around with the county proves that point. My efforts with bringing a city official's property into compliance with the provisions of the homestead exemption were responded to with threats from the county seeking to have my probation revoked for the balance of the remaining seventeen months.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech. The Supreme Court has also recognized that the government may prohibit some speech that may cause a breach of the peace or cause violence.

The right to free speech includes other mediums of expression that communicates a message. These communication medians include writing private emails, blog postings and the issue of information distributed to the media.

Democracy in it's purest form is supposed to be messy.

If this elected official was sincere in correcting what was an "honest oversight" then why not just pay the tax and move on? Instead, this became a court case where I would have argued my rights under the first amendment in seeking repayment of ALL the unpaid taxes on this property. While the city official has little choice but to pay the last three years of illegally claimed homestead exemptions what remains unclear is his commitment to volunteer payment for 2004 and 2005 as well.

Those of us who pay our property taxes and who understand we face reduced services and tax increases as Gwinnett tries to balance the county's fiscal budget expect that everyone pays their fair share. I have never questioned this city officials right to comment on my dogs I have questioned his judgment in making tax and spending decisions in his current public position for which he was elected. Someone who doesn't understand the tax codes, who seems confused on the role the first amendment plays in a citizens right to open and transparent government clearly and who apparently doesn't share my views on the role of the family pet in our community is not someone I would endorse or vote for to protect ALL the citizens interest in his community.

Meanwhile, I will continue to advocate for changing the way Gwinnett County deals with the animal ordinances by having them enforced as civil violations. With the exception of animal cruelty, animal neglect, dog fighting and the dangerous dog provisions all of the remaining issues pertaining to animal ownership should be handled under the civil statutes - which includes allowing those accused to simply mail in their ticket and pay a reasonable fine (like a driving offense) as opposed to adding to the docket of Gwinnett's Recorders Court.

The bottom line is NO PET OWNER should risk losing their freedom simply because of an innocuous act of their pet misbehaving. AS a voter who votes to protect his family's interest (that includes my family of hounds) those are the principles of democracy that I will continue to speak out for.

To read the entire article (comments welcome)

see below

Dog lover agrees to stay away from witnesses against him

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dog lover Randy DeCarlo has agreed to a consent order to have no contact with any of the six witnesses who helped put him on probation for violating Gwinnett County’s noise-nuisance ordinance.

The order, signed Wednesday, modifies DeCarlo’s terms of probation and allows him to stay out of jail.
DeCarlo had faced up to $24,000 in fines, 12 years in prison, and possibly losing all of his 25 dogs when he went to court last year. Instead, he was placed on supervised probation for two years.

DeCarlo said he was being dragged into court because witnesses alleged he had harassed them since his original case.

Wednesday’s consent order may put a halt to DeCarlo’s recent public campaign against Lilburn City Councilman Eddie Price, one of the witnesses at his hearing. DeCarlo has pointed out at public meetings that the councilman and his wife had recently been assessed back taxes for a homestead exemption on a piece of rental property near DeCarlo’s rural Lilburn home.

Records from the county assessor’s office show that as a result of an anonymous tip received Feb. 25, an audit was performed on the property, and bills for three years were sent out totaling $1,786.86.

Price said there was no deception intended. The house is not in his name. It belonged, he said, to his wife before they were married and was paid for through an escrow account. After the marriage, he said, no one thought to go into the escrow account and change it.

“When that was brought to my attention,” Price said, “we immediatley called the county and said, ‘Hey, he’s right. She should have had this removed, please remove it and figure out what we owe you.’ “

As for DeCarlo, he wants off supervised probation.

“Since the day of the trial, I’ve made a commitment to comply with the order of the court to make sure my dogs didn’t cause any problem in the neighborhood, and that hasn’t happened,” he said.

To read the entire article and comment

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