I attended the May 2, 2023 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.
All commissioners were present.
The meeting was held in the conference room of the Commission Building.
The first agenda item was Camden County EMA.
This item was paperwork for a federal grant for $1200 to load test the Emergency Management Agency’s (EMA) two generators.
Presiding Commissioner Skelton questioned all of the various federal policies and requirements they had to agree with just to get the grant. He preferred to avoid all of the federal requirements and just give the EMA county money to conduct the load tests.
Sam Henley, the EMA Director, explained that they had already received the grant so the paperwork was only to allow them to use the funds.
Faced with a fait accompli, the commissioners approved the expenditure of funds.
Commissioner Gohagan asked Henley if the EMA has acquired the connection cables they need to to use the generators. She said they have faced supply shortage issues, but they are going to hire an electrician to attach the connection ends to their existing cables.
The second agenda item was Sheriffs-Ozark Amphitheater.
This item was for the security agreement that would allow the Ozark Amphitheater to hire uniformed deputies as security for the Amphitheater events.
Presiding Commissioner Skelton said he thought it was a useful contract because of the large crowds that attend events at the Amphitheater. He felt there was a big difference between a security contract with the Ozark Amphitheater and a security contract with Shady Gators.
Commissioner Williams echoed Skelton’s comments. He was fine with the Ozark Amphitheater contract, but had some issues with the Shady Gators contract.
Commissioner Gohagan reviewed the contract and had concerns with Sections 11 and 12 of the contract. In the two sections, Camden County and the Ozark Amphitheater seemed to indemnify each other. Gohagan also said that in his opinion, he didn’t feel that Camden County should be “subsidizing” their deputies out to any private business.
This triggered a blow-up between Sheriff Helms and Commissioner Gohagan.
(I am not a professional stenographer, but I did my best to listen to the audio of the meeting and type it out. It didn’t help that people would sometimes talk over each other, but that’s sort of how arguments happen.)
Here is the audio file of the argument:
Sheriff Helms: “Can I ask why?”
Commissioner Gohagan: “Because we’re not doing it, we’re not offering it for everybody.”
Sheriff Helms: “Yes, we are.”
Gohagan: “We are?”
Helms: “Yes! If they want to pay the price and I’ve got the deputies…are you going to let me talk or not? If we have the people to send and they request it and they’ll pay the price, Yes! We’ll do it for anybody. We do a lot that you guys don’t even know about.”
Gohagan: “Okay. We offer it to everybody.”
Helms: “The thirty three years that I’ve been here, it’s never been a problem. All of a sudden, it’s a problem. I don’t get it.”
Gohagan: “Well, Shady Gators is not indemnifying the county and that’s why I was asking the question about 11 and 12 on there.”
Helms: (exasperated noise) “You know, it would be better if you guys stayed within the bounds of Commission and allowed the Sheriff to run the Sheriff’s Department. We’ve got a lot more knowledge and experience and know-how to do that than you do.”
Gohagan: “I’m sure you do, Tony, but this is the part that we have to sign.”
Helms: “Well, are you saying you know more about what I do?
Helms: “Are you saying you know more about my job and how to do it than I do?”
Gohagan: “When did I say that?”
Helms: “By questioning this [the agreement]. You think I would send them over if they were wrong? No, I wouldn’t.”
Gohagan: “I’m not allowed to ask questions?”
Helms: “Not until I’m done.”
Gohagan: “Okay. Go on.”
Helms: “Oh, I’m done.”
Presiding Commissioner Skelton: “It is our responsibility to ensure that anything this county enters into is a good idea and again, I don’t have a great big issue with this one. Umm, they’re on duty deputies. The problem we talked about before are individuals who are reserve officers and you [Helms] didn’t have a way of paying them. Correct?”
Helms: “We did have a way of paying them, but go ahead.”
Skelton: “It was my understanding that that’s what we were talking about out at Gators that, because of the way they were…”
Helms (interrupting): “They were paid directly by Gators working for me because the county does not have a mechanism to pay them. It’s almost every county around us pays their reserves something somehow, but I understand if you don’t want to do that. So we let Shady Gators pay them direct. Is there something wrong with that?”
Skelton: “And they’re hiring them direct off duty?”
Skelton: “Okay. So they’re not in uniform.”
Helms: “Yes. They are in uniform with a car. They’re working for me.”
Skelton: “Well, we’re not talking about that contract. Let’s stick with this one right now. Umm, I said I think there’s a difference. I don’t have as much of an issue. These two guys make the vote and the motions so…Does anybody else have any other input on this?”
Commissioner Williams: “Well, I have a question. Based on what was said, you [Helms] said we do a lot more of this that we don’t know about?
Williams: “Why don’t we know about it?”
Helms: “Well, he’s [Gohagan] sitting there saying that, you know, not everybody gets it. There’s a lot of condominiums up until last year that we worked at. The off duty, no patrol car, no uniforms. But the people want somebody that knows what they’re doing as opposed to having somebody there in some security T-shirt trying to do a job.”
Williams: “So they’re off duty. That’s why we don’t have a contract we have to sign.”
Helms: “And why?”
Williams: “That’s why I’m asking.”
Helms: “No, I don’t know why you do. If they got my car and my uniform, there should be a contract. If they’re not, I don’t think it’s any of our business.”
Williams: “I agree.”
Skelton: “I would agree with that. And those things that are done off duty, as a private citizen, not in the shadow of a deputy with the county, that’s a different, that is to me a different entity. They’re not on the county’s clock. They’re not on the county’s insurance. Right?
Helms: “No. Well, what if they have to act as a deputy? What if I have to act as an officer when I’m off? Am I protected by you?”
Skelton: “Well, sure, if a crime is being committed…”
Helms (interrupting): “Well, okay!”
Skelton: “Well, you’ve obviously got to do your job while a crime is being committed.”
Helms: “I’m telling you. This isn’t like…Geez. This is new. This has been going on. I’ve been here over thirty three years and never been a single problem. Until you guys started making it a problem. I don’t get why. This helps the county. This helps me. I got four people down at Shady Gators you can call. The reason why some of you, some of you, don’t like the reserves is because you don’t like the specific people that worked it last year. Don’t say you don’t.”
Gohagan: “Who are you talking about?”
Helms: “I’m talking about Chris Twitchell and the Bakers. I’ve seen your posts and I’ve seen [Nathan] Rinne’s posts on there about how they do things.”
Gohagan: “When did I ever say anything?”
Helms: “Whatever. Whatever.”
Gohagan: “Well, if you want to get into it about Twitchell, we can get into it.”
Helms (shouting): “Go ahead!”
Gohagan: “What’s he done?”
Helms: “I don’t know. That’s my question to you. What has he done to you?”
Gohagan: “Why? Why do you protect him?”
Helms: “Can somebody in here tell me how I protected Chris Twitchell?”
Gohagan: “You sure did, Tony. You sure did.”
Helms: “James, you’re a liar.”
Gohagan: “You are too. You’re a total liar, Tony.”
Skelton (desperately trying to calm things): “All right, hang on, guys. We’re beyond the scope of what we’re here for.”
Helms (to Gohagan): “You better be careful, pal.”
Gohagan: “Oh, it’s in paper. It’s in writing.”
Skelton: “Men, order. Men! Please. We’re beyond the scope of what we’re talking about. Let’s keep this to the scope of what we’re talking about.”
Gohagan: “What?! Is that a threat, Tony?”
Helms (yelling): “I can show…Yes! That’s a threat, James! I can show you texts where you text me that were so blatant lying that it was stupid! I can’t believe you were dumb enough to send me that!”
Gohagan: “What text?”
Helms: “Oh, you want me to read it?”
Gohagan: “Go ahead.”
Helms: “All right. I can do that.”
Skelton: “All right, men. Look. Let’s, uh. Let’s roll back here what we’re dealing with..”
Gohagan: “No, Tony..”
Helms: “This doesn’t have anything to do with these contracts. It’s got to do with Nathan Rinne and James Gohagan. Because before that, there was never a problem.”
Gohagan: “I asked two questions about this, Tony. [Sections] 11 and 12. That was all I asked.”
Helms: “Let’s fix ’em. Good question. Let’s fix ’em.”
Gohagan (continuing): “I just…And Jeffrey [County Attorney] told me he’s okay with it. Okay? You’re getting wound up for no reason.”
Helms: “(unintelligible) Let’s fix them.”
Helms: “Fix it then.”
Gohagan: “All I said, all I asked with Jeffrey was 11 and 12 is saying Ozark Amphitheater shall indemnify, Camden County shall indemnify. It felt like that was the same language. You’re getting wound up on something totally different.”
Helms: “Yeah, I am. I am. And I’m going to bring that up later. Oh, I’m way pissed right now.”
Gohagan: (imitating Helms) “Oh, Tony’s way pissed. Watch out.”
Helms: “James, you need to be very careful. I’m going to start putting stuff about you on Facebook.”
Gohagan: “What are you going to do, Tony? You going to arrest me? Are you going to arrest me?”
Helms: “If I had a chance [to arrest you], I might.”
Gohagan: “I’m sure you would.”
Helms: “Are you confessing or something? Well, then why would you.”
Gohagan: “No, but you told me you’re threatening me. About what? What are you threatening me for?”
Helms: “I’ll put the stuff on Facebook like you guys.”
Gohagan: “I’ll put it on Facebook too.”
Helms: “Play my recordings that you say you have recorded.”
Gohagan: “Do what?!!”
Helms: “Ask anybody in this room if they don’t believe what I’m saying that Nathan Rinne comes in and tells you what to do because something was on Facebook this morning.”
Gohagan: “I disagree with Nathan all the time.”
Helms: “I know. And you tell him stuff about goes on in this room that shouldn’t be out.”
Gohagan: “I don’t talk to you, Tony.”
Gohagan: “I don’t talk to you at all.”
Gohagan: “So what do I tell stuff that shouldn’t be getting out?”
Helms: “Okay. Well, that’s good because you brought that up. [To Skelton] If you’re going to let this keep going, I’m going to bring it up.”
Skelton: “No, we need to stop at this moment. We just need to stop at this moment. We need to get back to this contract and why we’re here and move on to the business on the agenda. “
Helms: “I will, I would like to just say one last thing. Just like I told Nathan Rinne, I don’t like you [to Gohagan].”
Skelton: “Welp, there you go.”
And then the commission voted unanimously to approve the Ozark Amphitheater contract.
(After transcribing all that, I realize I should have paid more attention in Mrs. Murphy’s Typing class.)
The next two agenda items were the CART map and Wilbus Road.
The Commission still wants to finalize its CART map, but needs to resolve the issue of Wilbus Road before the map can be approved. The county has received CART money to maintain Wilbus Road in the past, but there is some question about easements and how far along the road the county’s responsibility stretches. County Attorney Green recommended resolving this issue before the CART map is approved because the is a danger that the county could be sued if it arbitrarily removed roads from the CART map.
This item was unanimously tabled.
The fifth agenda item was Health Department Budget Amendment.
Commissioner Gohagan said that $26,000 was missing from the department’s WIC Payroll line item. They found the errant $26,000 in the Part Time line item. The budget amendment would move the $26,000 to the correct line item.
The budget amendment was approved unanimously.
The final agenda item was Phone Systems – RFP.
Presiding Commissioner Skelton said that the current phone system is mess of different contracts for various services. They need to contract someone who can evaluate their phone system and come up with a more efficient, unified solution.
Some employees receive county cell phones while other employees are reimbursed by the county for using their cell phones for county business. County Attorney Green noted that this might make their personal cell phones subject to Sunshine requests.
The commissioners agreed they would prepare a Request for Purchase to hire an expert to assess their current phone systems and contracts.
And that was that.
I feel like there should be a certain expectation for how elected officials and citizens alike should conduct themselves at these meetings. The Sheriff, by his own admission, was upset about something other than this particular agenda item. While it makes for interesting writing, outbursts like these probably don’t contribute to the best governance for the constituents. How can the deputies eject a citizen from a meeting for being disruptive when the Sheriff himself can act the same way?
As far as the Commission’s involvement with the Amphitheater contract, it is important that the executive body of the county be aware of where and how Camden County’s deputies work for private companies. I was surprised to hear that the Sheriff didn’t care where his deputies work off duty when they aren’t in uniform. By his own admission at the meeting, they should still be obligated by their responsibilities as peace officers even in plainclothes security jobs and should be covered by the county’s insurance if they act to prevent or stop crime. Thus, it is in the county’s interests to know what off-duty jobs deputies work to mitigate risk.
6 thoughts on “May 2, 2023 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.”
Wow. Thank you for going to the troub
Helms is fixn to have a big L on his forehead. This isn’t the Commission of 30 years ago. The Gadfly opinion on county oversight of off duty officers working side jobs is enlightening. If the County is providing insurance for off duty work, then the Commission needs to know the details.
As a former state employee, I had to get permission from my employer if I wanted to work a part-time job or do volunteer work. This was required to make sure that there wasn’t any form of conflict-of-interest or other issues that could negatively impact me or the agency. I think the Sheriff is wrong allowing off-duty deputies to work various security details or part-time jobs without the county signing off on it.
I agree with you 100%
Obviously you people aren’t familiar with the law. The sheriff is an elected official they cannot be fired. He runs his own department that’s part of his authority. This whole meeting here was stupid and got out of hand. But this man’s been at this job for 30 plus years. How long is that commission been in order. As in so many small time small town government officials they think they come in and take over well they’re not higher than the sheriff is. Rather the sheriff is right or wrong in his position his authority is over their authority when it comes to the service as a protection of the county people that’s just the facts Jack whether you like it or not. I can remember years ago whenever Gerald Whittle from Miller county Missouri wasn’t sure anymore and he independently worked for the mob.. brother we all know it. This sheriff should have control over what his deputies are doing. You don’t have any clue how little money these people make. Everybody has a right to supplemental income in the United States of America. If you can go get your food stamps if you can go to the food bank it’s the same process we have a right to better our family and our individual homes. Being a police officer does not make you a slave. You might serve the people and be a peace officer. But there shouldn’t be a boundary on what a man can earn as long as he is not earning it through gambling or illegal sales of drugs are narcotics. There should be a tax form to fill out for the individuals receiving the money. I would say leave it to the IRS. This is a ridiculous argument. And childish behavior. Pretty much from both sides for whatever the reason is it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a bully meeting. And neither side was innocent of the bullying. It was preposterously rude and an adult. But very revealing. I don’t support all police officers but I support the law. The sheriff has more rights than what you’re giving him the respect of it. That’s all I got to say I don’t give a crap what time or day it is. Go back to your Mariner laws that’s where you find your actual laws!!