Friday, September 19, 2014


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Anniston places restrictions on media access to city department heads

The city of Anniston has instituted a new media policy which restricts reporters from talking directly with city department heads without first submitting a request to the city manager or the cities public information officer.    Also, all open records requests must be referred to the city clerk, who must then obtain authorization from the city manager before releasing any information.   Anniston is the only city in the area to implement such a policy. 
City officials say the new policy was not about trying to control the media or silence city employees. .
The city manager has said the policy is a way to promote consistency and accuracy in reporting among city officials. He said journalists will still be able to talk with city department employees, but he wants to make sure he's in the loop so that the
city's message will always be clear.

Blount County woman sentenced in ex husbands death

Elsie Thomas
A Blount County woman has been sentenced for killing her ex-husband in 2011.
Elsie Thomas received a 12 year prison sentence but will only serve 24 months and then have five years of probation. Thomas had been out of jail on an appeal bond.
Authorities say Thomas shot her ex-husband Matt Allen in Hayden in 2011. She told law enforcement she acted in self-defense.
Thomas said her ex-husband threatened her with a handgun, so she shot him with a small shotgun. 
Blount County District AttorneyPamela Casey said Allen died from a single, close-range shotgun blast to his heart.
A jury found Thomas guilty of manslaughter
in Allen's death.
Thomas was immediately taken into custody after her sentencing hearing on Thursday morning.

Appeals court rules against Gadsden Firefighters

A federal appeals court has upheld the city of Gadsden’s decision to increase how much city employees must contribute toward their retirement.
The United States Circuit Court for the Eleventh Circuit  ruled Tuesday that the city had not violated the “commerce clause” of the U.S. Constitution, nor the Alabama constitution, which prohibit governments from passing legislation that negatively impacts existing private and public contracts.
The lawsuit, brought by seven Gadsden firefighters on behalf of a class of most of city’s firefighters, was filed after the City Council passed a resolution in 2011 increasing the amount contributed by employees toward their retirement by 2.5 percent over two years, while reducing the city’s contribution.
After the suit was filed in 2011, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in 2013  ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to show that Gadsden had impaired any contracts to their detriment, and dismissed the case. It then was appealed to the 11th Circuit.
Attorney Ed Howard, who represented the city, said the appeals court in its ruling noted the absence of any contract between the firefighter-employees and the city, and pointed to laws governing the retirement system. It found there were no statutes showing that such increases could not occur.

Jacksonville proposing dog park

The Jacksonville planning commission approved a plan Thursday to establish the city’s first dog park.
Before the plan can be initiated, it must be approved by the Jacksonville City Council, which could vote on the matter as early as Monday.  Council President Mark Jones, who is also a member of the planning commission, said Thursday he is in favor of establishing the park.
If the concept proves popular with Jacksonville dog owners, Jones said, the park could be moved to a more central location later.
Janis Burns, director of the Parks and Recreation department, previously raised the possibility of establishing more than one dog park.
Dog parks are enclosed, public spaces where dogs can run free of their leashes while their owners look on. Many have water stations and large tunnels and ramps for the pets to run through or leap over.
The one planned for Germania Springs would include a fence, a water station, a waste station and a few toys for the pets.

Gadsden and Albertville recognized by Tourist Association

Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden was named to the North Alabama Tourism Hall of Fame, and several Northeast Alabama sites and tourism professionals also were honored during ceremonies this week during the 50th annual meeting of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association.
Noccalula Falls Park was listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on May 12, 1976.
Albertville's Main Street Music Festival was named Event of the Year and Little River Canyon National Preserve was chosen Attraction of the Year in the tourism PEAK Awards.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

No Jail time for woman charged in death of infant son

Katherine Papke

An Anniston Woman, charged in the death of her infant son after leaving him in a vehicle in August 2013 pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminally negligent homicide Wednesday.
A Calhoun County grand jury indicted Katherine Papke for manslaughter after her son died from being strapped in his car seat in her hot van for hours at the National Guard Center at McClellan in Anniston. Papke later found him and called 911.
According to a joint press release issued by all parties involved in th case, the Calhoun County District Attorneys Office investigation revealed Papke admitted she was overwhelmed by work and personal obligations and forgot that her child was in the back seat when she reported to work.
Through the plea, Papke accepted responsibility for her role in the unintentional death of her child, 4-month-old Bennett Owen "Bo" Smith.
Papke has been accepted into a diversionary program that will allow her to avoid prison time.
If Papke completes the conditions of her diversionary sentence, she could eventually have her guilty plea removed from her record.
Papke, who had a "meritorious service record" in the military and no criminal history will continue
to serve in the military, according to the joint press release.
She will also continue to cooperate with the Department of Human Resources in regards to the custody of her two daughters, who are in custody of her ex-husband.