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The Monroe County Reporter
Forsyth, Georgia
October 3, 2018     The Monroe County Reporter
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October 3, 2018

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October 3, 2018 Page 7A i orter MIDDLE GEORGIA TIMBER SCHEME Six arrested in alleged Middle Ga. racketeering scheme Monroe County has both an alleged victim and a sus- pect in claims of a regional limber racketeering scheme to defraud landowners that led to mul ple arrests last week. Bibb County district attor- ney David Cooke last week filed a civil racketeering lawsuit against Pike County- based Cox Land and Timber Inc. and six co-conspirators, induding former Monroe County resident James "Bubbd' Weldon. It's not the first time Weldon, who now has an Evans, Ga. address, has been charged in a timber scheme. In 2015, Sumter County authorities accused him of stealing about $100,000 in timber there. As for this latest scandal, Cooke charged Weldon and five others with defraud- ing landowners, many of them elder r, out of tim- ber proceeds in at least 16 counties, induding Monroe. Cooke would not name the victim(s) in Monroe County. The allegations of ille- gal conduct cover at least 15 other counties besides Monroe -- Bibb, Baldwin, Dodge, Fayette, Greene, Hancock, Henr Jasper, Lamar, Meriwether, Newton, Pike, Spalding, Talbot and Taliaferro, said Cooke. The case involves the Cox com- pany and its agents harvest- ing timber from lots owned by 28 landowners. Here are more details that Cooke's office announced in its press release: An investigation by the Georgia Forestry Com- mission showed that the defendants misrepresented both the type and amount of timber harvested so they could pay landowners a reduced price for the timber. At least 17 of the landowners were elderly. For example, an elderly man was quoted between $15,000 and $30,000 for his timber. After the harvest, the man only received $6,686.82. An investigation found the defendants harvested ap- proximately 655 tons more timber than theytt declared on a settlement sheet pro- vided to the man. In another instance, the defendants quoted elderly woman between $50,000 and $80,000 for her tim- ber, but she only received $37,984. The defendants fraudulently misrepre- sented that her property had extensive beetle damage that prevented them from harvesting the amount of timber quoted. In reality, the defendants harvested more than 289 tons more than was dedared on the settle- ment sheet they gave to the woman. The defendants also are alleged WELDON to have defrauded Graphic Packaging Intemational, a Macon sawmill, by misrep- resenting the ownership or origin of timber so they'd get a larger payment from the mill. Agents with the Georgia Forestry Commission served a search warrant last week at Cox Land & Timber's office in Pike County and seized the business along with its assets. Both the business and the assets will be held in a receivership by Macon attor- ney John F. Kennedy while the lawsuit is pending. John Bamhart Cox, 49, of Williamson, was charged with theft by deception Tuesday. Jack David Uselton Jr 49, of McDonough, was charged with misrepresent- ing the origin or ownership of timber. The investigation continues and more arrests are possible. Each defendant in the lawsuit and the associated criminal cases is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court. Continued from Front Two sources dose to the deliberations say that Hedges has emerged as the favorite. He served as Pelham city manager from January 2015 until earlier this year after serving two terms as mayor of Ashburn. Hedges inherited a $1.45 million budget deficit upon taking over as Pelham city manager. Under Hedges' watch, Pelham reported a $1.15 million surplus by March 2018, according to a March 26 Albany Her- aid article. Prior tObeing elected as the Ashburn mayor, Hedges was an executive with the Amoco gas corporation, serving as Senior Finance Manager to lead all financial activities for the Azerbaijan Inter- national Operating Corn- pan); which was created to develop oil fields in the Republic of Azerbaijan. While at Amoco,Hedges was also appointed to lead Continued from Front bly Tuesday moming to accept the banner and cel- ebrate the elite status that it shared with only 37 other elementary schools across Georgia, and fewer middle and high schools, when its STEM certification was an- nounced on April 18. The pursuit of STEM certification was a rigorous process that took several years. It included site visits by state officials, evidence of teacher collaboration, business and industry partnerships, high levels of math and science instruc- tion, and an integrated, project-based STEM cur- riculum. Principal Jay Johnston said the greatest asset of the STEM (Science, Technol- ogy, Engineering, Math) curriculum is that it teaches students to think, not just to solve problems but to be problem solvers. "It's been a long journey [to STEM certification]," said Johnston. "The level of instruction at Hubbard El- ementary School is second to none" "Today is a day of celebra- tion. A lot of work goes into this" said Woods. "Many schools are chas- ing you. Over a thousand schools in the state are waiting to become STEM certified." Woods said that STEM certification is a team pro- cess that reflects a culture in the school and the com- munity. He said it is about getting businesses and other elements of the com- munity involved so that students see the real world v the financial and adminis- trative departments of two of Amoco's three largest overseas operations, having lived in or traveled to 61 different countries. Hedges has a Bachelor of Science degree in administra- tion and accounting from Northeastern State Univer- sity in Tahlequah, Okla. Woods served as Ho- gansviUe city manager from August 2011 until May 2017. Among Woods' achievements in Ho- gansviUe, a city with a population of 3,169 and a budget of $10.2 million, were overseeing the design of a $6.5 million sewer system as well as apply- ing for and receiving $1.3 million in disaster recov- ery for a December 2015 storm. Prior to moving to Hogansville, Woods served as city manager of Blount- stown, Fla. from August 2007 to March 2011. He also served for more than six years in various ca- pacities for the city of Cedar Grove, Fla. from 1995-2001, applications of what they study and are able to apply what they learn outside of the school setting. An important compo- nent is bringing female students into STEM fields. Woods said that all classes in a STEM certified school begin with an engineering unit. He challenged the school system to consider the STEM certification at Hubbard Elementary as a beginning and to con- tinue to grow by involving the arts and becoming a STEAM school and by encouraging the middle school and high school to become STEM certi- fied. He emphasized the importance of professional development for the staff. "If teachers do not sup- port it, you will only get mediocre results" he said. As Johnston thanked those who helped Hub- bard Elementary achieve its prestigious status, he said the teachers are the most important. "We would not have made any strides without them,' said Johnston. He also thanked Woods, DOE STEM/STEAM program specialist Felicia Cullars, Monroe County Schools administration and Board of Education, his assistant principals, former HES principal Dr. Marcy Hunt-Harris and teacher/STEM coach Susan Curtis. He thanked Federal Programs Director Sandy Colwell for working with him to "squeeze every ounce out of Title I funds" and his PTA Board for supporting him with funds when he couldn't find them anywhere else. Hubbard Elementary fifth climbing the ladder from mayoral assistant to city clerk to town administrator. Woods has a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida State University. Kitchens has served as Director of Grant Initia- tives for the Georgia Public Defender Council' since 2014, working with 43 judicial circuits. Prior to that Kitchens worked from 2003-2014 as a grant resources administrator for Bibb County, assisting county department heads in identifying and applying for grants. Funding awards received under Kitchens' aided the Bibb County " Board of Commissioners, the Macon Judicial Circuit, Bibb County Engineering, the Bibb County Sheriff's Office, and the Macon-Bibb Fire Department. Kitch- ens has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan Col- lege with a double major in history and political science as well as a Master's of Busi- ness Administration also from Wesleyan College. graders Jesse White and Addyson Shearer accepted the banner on behalf of the school and walked it through the assembly of the student body to the cheers of their fellow students. ChjltldFund ! I !i New Providence Baptist Church Located 2560 Hwy 41 South, Forsyth, GA 31029 -Presents- with J.J. Weeks, Austin French, & Natasha Owens! Sunday, October 7th @ 7:00 pm. Doors will open at 6:30 pm TICKETS are on sale @ General Admission: $10 TIlE CITY OF FORSYTII IIID FORSYTII BIN STREElr 10 m- 3 PM Forsyth'$ Courthouse Square Chili Cook-Off This year m are our Great Bewls el Fire CUB NdHdl. PIRn goto webslte for ii reglsblllml fern. wlHbe Fenmb lialn Slmll: 470-eD4-7747 FUll FMTIIE WIOLE ImIW MDUT. -:z: :. lsllml salmclml dgmm. meenvallmmEd ImDaymime . J~ LJh-