Around Town: Jailhouse Blues — Sex scandal shakes Sheriff’s Department; more to come?
by Bill Kinney & Joe Kirby
February 08, 2013 11:38 PM | 8363 views | 16 16 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THESE ARE NOT happy days for Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren — and according to well-placed sources in the Cobb courthouse, more unpleasant news might be on the way.

The Sheriff’s Department has been rocked by the arrests of two veteran sergeants in the past three weeks on charges of sexually assaulting inmates at the Cobb Adult Detention Center. And courthouse sources say there may be more disquieting news yet to come.

Sgt. Kristopher David Travitz of Douglasville, who’s been with the agency for 14 years, was arrested a week ago today and charged with assaulting a female inmate between Oct. 21, 2010 and March 7, 2011. The alleged assault took place in a vehicle while the woman was being moved from one building to another at the jail.

Travitz, 37, who supervised the work-release program at the time, was fired last Saturday and was being held at the Bartow County jail.


THAT NEWS came on the heels of another shocker: the Jan. 17 arrest (followed by termination) of Sgt. Blake Sutherland on felony charges of aggravated sexual battery and sexual assault of a female inmate. Sutherland is in the Douglas County jail.

The Cobb jail complex consists of four buildings and houses about 2,200 inmates, most of who are in pre-trial status. Warren’s department has a $67 million annual budget and employs nearly 800 people.

Two high-ranking court officials separately told Around Town late this week that they’ve heard there are instances yet to emerge involving both sexual affairs between jail supervisors and underlings and sex between jailers and inmates. Neither of the officials, who spoke off the record, is involved in the investigations.


SHERIFF WARREN has spent virtually his entire law enforcement career in Cobb. He was appointed interim sheriff in 2003 and has never been seriously challenged at the polls. He won full terms from voters in 2004, ’08 and again in November, beating Democrat Gregory Gilstrap by a 59-41 percent margin.

The sheriff is described by those close to him as “anguished” over the arrests. And that anguish came through as well in his comments to the MDJ.

“I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed for the dedicated men and women of the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office,” he said after the second arrest. “They work hard, and this looks so bad, and I know it does, and I’m not going to stand for it, and I’m going to continue to find out why it’s happening, and if it’s happening, I can assure you I’m going to bring it to the forefront and do my best to have them prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The sex scandal is doubly shocking in that the Cobb jail — unlike many of its counterparts around the state, and especially the one across the river in Fulton County — has been a model operation since its opening in 1987 under then-Sheriff Bill Hutson and more recently under Warren. It has had to deal with crowding-related issues from time to time, but has been virtually scandal-free otherwise.

Until now.


POLITICS: Keli Gambrill, who heads one of west Cobb’s largest homeowner organizations, told Around Town that she is strongly considering running against Northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham when the three-term incumbent comes up for re-election next year.

Gambrill, 43, is president of People Looking After Neighborhoods, which she said has subdivisions as members that comprise around 3,000 homes. The Michigan native is a forensic accountant and has lived in west Cobb since 2003 with husband Bob (who works at the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations at the Galleria) and their son Robert.

The family lives in the Alexander Farms subdivision off Barrett Parkway near Dallas Highway, and Gambrill contends that Goreham has failed to hold accountable the builders involved in what started out as a Residential Senior Living development but is now the Cobblestone Ridge construction project adjoining her subdivision.

“I’d heard about this in other areas but I didn’t realize how blatant it was until it was in my own backyard,” Gambrill said.

“Helen used to represent the homeowners and her constituents. But it seems that ever since her second and now her third term election, she has gotten further away from representing those who elected her. That’s probably the biggest reason why I want to step in and run against her. She doesn’t seem to want to step up and hold the developer or the county or whoever’s approaching her to the law. It should be a simple answer. If you agreed to something you should do it. But it doesn’t seem to happen.”

She also contends that people tell her Goreham won’t meet with them and rarely returns calls or emails.

Gambrill also has been critical of Goreham’s failure to support IMAGE certification for contractors who do business with Cobb, a program aimed at ensuring such jobs go to U.S. citizens, not illegal aliens.


A GOREHAM-GAMBRILL DUEL would be an interesting one. Goreham was known early in her political career as “the homeowners’ friend” and as someone of whom developers were wary. She was so popular, in fact, that she defeated five challengers — all men, by the way — in the 2006 GOP primary, and without a runoff, an unprecedented political feat in Cobb.

And now, Gambrill is trying to steal her crown.


NORTHEAST COBB Commissioner JoAnn Birrell will kick off her re-election campaign with a 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. fundraiser Feb. 21 at Bay Breeze Restaurant, 2418 Canton Road. RSVP to (404) 394-9601 or joanndist3@gmail.com.


THE COBB LANDMARKS & HISTORICAL SOCIETY handed out a bevy of awards at its recent annual meeting at the Whitlock Inn. Recipients were:

• Former Smyrna Mayor Harold Smith, who founded the Smyrna History Museum in 1991 and was an organizer and director of the Taylor-Brawner House Foundation;

• Jim Reisinger of Acworth, who with his business partner Rob Hinchee purchased the 1854 Cowen Farmstead in Acworth, saved it from demolition, restored it and now uses it as the home for their business, Integrated Science & Technology Inc.;

• Betty Hunter of The Friends of Brown Park for upgrading the “Garden of Heroes” as part of the Marietta Confederate Cemetery project;

• Carolyn Crawford, head librarian since 1988 of The Georgia Room, which houses the historical and genealogical collection at the main Cobb Marietta Library on Roswell Street; and who was described by Landmarks head Rose Wing as “a walking encyclopedia of Cobb County’s history”;

• Marietta author Russell Bonds, an attorney with Coca-Cola in Atlanta who has penned a pair of award-winning books: “Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor” and “War Like the Thunderbolt: The Battle and Burning of Atlanta”;

• President Terry DeWitt of First Landmark Bank, for its support of Cobb Landmarks;

• And Stewart and JoAnn Campbell as Volunteers of the Year, who co-chaired the publication committee for the “Marietta: The Gem City of Georgia” book. The Campbells also will serve as co-presidents of Cobb Landmarks during 2013.

THE COBB LANDMARKS & HISTORICAL SOCIETY handed out a bevy of awards at its recent annual meeting at the Whitlock Inn. Recipients were:

— Former Smyrna Mayor Harold Smith, who founded the Smyrna History Museum in 1991 and was an organizer and director of the Taylor-Brawner House Foundation;

— Jim Reisinger of Acworth, who with his business partner Rob Hinchee purchased the 1854 Cowen Farmstead in Acworth, saved it from demolition, restored it and now uses it as the home for their business, Integrated Science & Technology Inc.;

— Betty Hunter of The Friends of Brown Park for upgrading the “Garden of Heroes” as part of the Marietta Confederate Cemetery project;

— Carolyn Crawford, head librarian since 1988 of The Georgia Room, which houses the historical and genealogical collection at the main Cobb Marietta Library on Roswell Street; and who was described by Landmarks head Rose Wing as “a walking encyclopedia of Cobb County’s history”;

— Marietta author Russell Bonds, an attorney with Coca-Cola in Atlanta who has penned a pair of award-winning books: “Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor” and “War Like the Thunderbolt: The Battle and Burning of Atlanta”;

— President Terry DeWitt of First Landmark Bank, for its support of Cobb Landmarks;

— And Stewart and JoAnn Campbell as Volunteers of the Year, who co-chaired the publication committee for the “Marietta: The Gem City of Georgia” book. The Campbells also will serve as co-presidents of Cobb Landmarks during 2013.


THE COVERED BRIDGE DISTRICT of the Atlanta Area Council of the Friends of Scouting will host Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens for their main fundraising event of the year at 7:30 a.m. Feb. 22, a Golden Eagle Breakfast at The Georgian Club. Suggested minimum contribution is $250, reports spokesman Sammy Powell, Scoutmaster of Troop 554 at Whitefield Academy. ... Olens spoke last week to the Marietta Kiwanis Club and noted in passing that he had just been sued by three pro se litigants (i.e., plaintiffs representing themselves, rather than hiring lawyers), claiming that he as state attorney general was the cause of the nationwide mortgage crisis of 2008.

“Never mind that I was not in office then,” he quipped. “Don’t let that get in the way of a good lawsuit.”


IF YOU HEAR DRUMMING on Marietta Square this afternoon, no, the natives are not on the war path. The drumming will be part of the fifth annual “Public Witness Event for Marriage Equality” (i.e. gay marriage) sponsored by the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Marietta. The 1:15 p.m. event will feature speakers, singers and the Emerson Drummers leading a processional around Glover Park in the Square, according to pastor the Rev. Jeff Jones.

“Please join us on the side of love,” he added.
Comments
(16)
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Argh!?
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February 11, 2013
I had confidence in Neil Warren until my cousin got pregnant in the Cobb Co. Detention Center. It was quickly brushed under the rug.
stop the lies
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February 11, 2013
Yet Another, who is this person you are talking about? That arrest never occurred.
yet another
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February 10, 2013
Another Sheriffs employee was arrested for racketeering in November. That jail is gonna cost us millions in lawsuits. Warren needs to modernize his department, leadership and staff. Heads need to role. Stop putting politically connected do nothing, see nothing's in charge.
not likely
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February 10, 2013
asked anybody round there they aint gettin rid of people. they got a lt that was caught in the jail with an deputy. he still workin there!

double standards!
Helen of the Chamber
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February 10, 2013
Helen is so determined to do the real bosses (C W Mathews) bidding that she can't see the fact that she has proven to all of us in West Cobb that we are only peon voters who mean little. Don't buy any new office furnture Helen.

D.A. King has done a great favor by getting Goreham out on this.First she was for IMAGE then she wanted to think about it, now she is given some goofy do-nothing fake replacement system . The end game is that Helen Goreham is no better than Tim Lee. That is really a low remark. But true.

And why is Lisa Cupid being ignored? I'll tell you why: Because she is black and people are afraid to tell the truth. That she is going to allow the illegal aliens to keep taking jobs because of their skin color. While poor African Americans stay on unemployment. Cobb is Clayton County ten years from now. Just watch.

Paul Grady - voter
So long Helen
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February 09, 2013
I am glad to see her get some opposition. I will certainly give Keli Gambrill a call if she runs. Please run. We need a change in West Cobb.
Cant hardley wait
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February 09, 2013
That kind of thing has been going on at Cobb SO for years. I am glad it has finally come out. The command staff determine the climate of behavior for their subordinates. I wonder how high up this really goes.
Old Sailor
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February 09, 2013
So, let's think about this. We've got a person newly from Michigan who wants to run for county commission because of environmental issues when we have much larger problems which seem to evade this Michiganite. Hello! Could it be that she desires to make Cobb like Michigan?
irked
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February 11, 2013
She's not "newly from Michigan". Ask her about everything she has been involved in and on what side she's fought.
Mark Johnson
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February 09, 2013
In large organizations such as the Sheriff's Department, irregularities (and even crimes) can unfortunately occur. I have complete confidence in Sheriff Warren's fully pursuing this and ridding his staff of unprofessional (and even criminal) elements.
VFP42
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February 09, 2013
More to come? Really?
rjsnh
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February 09, 2013
The sheriff has to be held accountable for what appears to be large scale misconduct within his department. If the misconduct involves one employee, you have a bad employee. If it involves any number of employees, you have bad leadership. The buck stops at the top when the organizational culture has allowed such inappropriate behavior to go on for an extended period of time. The fact that the sheriff may say he was "unaware" of such conduct is simply further evidence of a serious problem with his leadership.
Agree 100%
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February 10, 2013
I agree. He needs to demote or dismiss the leadership at the jail. Instead of competent Deputies running the place you have politicians. A bunch of under qualified friends of friends, well this is what you get when your only at work 2 days a week 9-3.
Roger Tucker
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February 09, 2013
Helen Goreham is known for he queen-of-the-day attitude and happily, this is her last period of reign. The IMAGE thing is the last straw. Helen: The Chamber's money will not save you on ths one genius. Here in Cobb we don't turn a blind eye to illegal laiens that collect out tax dollars. Sold-out Tim is going out too, it just will take a few more years. Keli: WHERE DO I SEND THE DONATION?
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