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Allegations hurt county’s reputation

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By Shirley Caudill

The news media coverage about the abuse of authority by the top Owen County officials has been an embarrassment to Owen County and is the topic of discussion among everyone.

The bad news is that (some of) our county officials - Judge-executive Billy O’Banion, former Deputy Judge-executive Renaee Gaines, and Treasurer Gayla Lewis - are giving our county government a bad name.

Good news is that we have a “watchdog” in out State Auditor’s Department that has uncovered wrongdoings and a grand jury that is not afraid to make a stand. The fact that our county officials are now facing theft charges has put everyone on notice and hopefully all of our Owen County taxpayers will now become “watch dogs.”

The trial is set for Jan. 13 with all three officials (expected to appear).

The grand jury report detailed illegal payment to the county magistrates and other improper fiscal practices. The magistrates have been receiving $300 a month payment for how long? Could it have possibly been since the first part of 2007? That is a lot of money since they were not on any approved committees as was required. It was also stated that the magistrates gave their records to the grand jury. When were these records given to the grand jury compiled? At the beginning of 2007 or recently? The magistrates not knowing what their duties and responsibilites is inexcusable. The fact that the committees have now been recently created so they can exercise their commitment for payment is a farce. It is questionable whether our magistrates have the qualifications or trustworthiness to sit on any of these newly formed committees. Audit Committee (Ray Smith and Teresa Davis); Road Committee (Jerry Jones and Teresa Davis); Fiscal Facilities Committee (Bobby Gaines and Ray Smith).

In reply to comments made recently in the News-Herald, those of us who live in Owen County are not small-minded or biased people. I would think most of us are the opposite. An individual needs to check out all the facts that have been presented and “think” for themselves and not for the glory or favor of the “Good Ole Boys.” All of us have free will and free speech.