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Carrollton nonprofit provides support for students faced with childhood trauma
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The founder of a Carrollton nonprofit that supports students facing childhood trauma is seeking funding for “The Tunnel Project,” which he plans to launch later this year.

The Molding Passionate Active Creative Kids (M-PACK) nonprofit needs supplies for this project, and the founder is asking local government leaders for $180,760 to help get the program started.

M-PACK was created to “combat the lasting effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs),” founder Demarcus Copeland wrote in an executive summary of his organization. Adverse Childhood Experiences can be categorized into three primary groups: abuse, neglect and household challenges.

Copeland launched M-PACK in March 2020, and he is renting a building he calls “The Tunnel” at 302 N. Park St. In an interview with the Times-Georgian on Monday, he said he would like to launch the Tunnel Project in August.

“The Tunnel is a building that we decided to rent because of its placement in the community,” Copeland wrote in his proposal. “We call it the Tunnel because from the back entry, you can see the most impoverished area in Carrollton. We will host an after-care program that bonds with youth from Ward 1 directly behind the building.”

He told the newspaper he started his nonprofit because the Carroll County branch of the Boys and Girls Club closed in March 2020. He wanted to give students an alternative to that program. He has also worked in education for 10 years, including a stint at the KidsPeace educational center in Bowdon.

“The school system is great and all, but there are restrictions and it’s just not enough time to build relationships that could involve the parents,” he said. “We’re going to advocate for any kid that needs help, and we’re going to build them up anyway we can.”

In his proposal, Copeland said scientific studies by the health care company Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that early exposure to childhood trauma can be linked to several diseases, such as cancer, asthma or obesity.

“Early exposure has been linked to smoking, alcoholism, drug use, low graduation rates, little to no academic achievement, lost time from work, and a 20-year difference in life expectancy when compared to those who have not experienced childhood trauma,” he wrote.

Under the Tunnel Project, Copeland is proposing a program called “It Pays to Pass,” which will give parents $150 per month to ensure their student makes certain grades. The program will also offer tutoring services and mentorship.

“Our goal is for the parents to become so dependent on receiving this monthly income, they will do all they can in their power to make sure the child maintains the desired grade point average,” Copeland’s proposal said. “The program is meant to increase parent involvement in a child’s life while lowering unemployment payment recipients.”

There are requirements for the parents and children, including being employed part-time, having one child per family, being between the ages of 13 and 16, maintaining a 3.0 grade-point average and not having a GPA above 2.5 when entering.

Copeland’s goals are to begin life-coaching 25 children this year and raise enough funds to hire three certified, professional life coaches. He would also like to raise $250,000 through grants and fundraisers and partner with at least 10 youth-related businesses.

The nonprofit also plans to start three programs for these students, including the Organized Play, the Plan and the Power Program and the Outside the Classroom and Beyond programs. These projects will help children faced with adverse experiences play and learn with other children and professionals.

“Our main goal is to build relationships and provide resources that cater to each individual participant’s needs through life coaching inventions,” Copeland said.

State AG to review Temple election case
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The State Board of Elections heard two cases of alleged fraud involving candidates for the 2017 Temple municipal election, dismissing one but referring the other to the state Attorney General’s office.

In all, the state board — which is charged among other duties with determining election fraud — made criminal referrals involving 24 cases from across the state during its Feb. 17 hearing. Along with the Temple cases heard, there was also one involving a former LaGrange municipal candidate and the entire Douglas County Board of Elections for a matter involving the 2020 general election.

The two Temple cases involved men who allegedly failed to disclose that they had criminal records when they filed for the November 2017 municipal election. While the board referred one of those cases to the state’s Attorney General, the board dismissed the accusation against the second former candidate.

Avanti Helton, who had registered to seek the Ward 1 council seat in 2017, will now have his case examined by the state’s attorney general. He is accused of making a false statement when he signed a required affidavit to seek the post, allegedly failing to disclose he had pleaded guilty to a felony case in 2005.

While persons who have been convicted of crimes may vote after all terms of their sentences are complete, the state forbids anyone “convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude” from holding elected office “unless that person’s civil rights have been restored and at least 10 years have elapsed from the date of the completion of the sentence.”

The only agency that can restore civil rights — which includes the right to run for public office — is the state Board of Pardons and Paroles.

During the campaign, Helton’s candidacy was challenged, and the case was scheduled to be heard by the Carroll County Board of Elections. He withdrew from the race one day before that hearing.

In a 2017 interview, Helton admitted to the felony charge, but said that the matter was “over and done with.” He also pointed to the prosperous life he made for himself in the years since the conviction.

Reached Monday for comment, Helton expressed anger that the matter was coming up again and his belief that the matter would ultimately be dismissed by the AG’s office.

During the Feb. 17 hearing, neither Helton nor a representative appeared on his behalf. That was not the case for Gerald Powell, the second Temple candidate from the 2017 race.

Like Helton, Powell was also accused of failing to disclose a prior felony conviction when he ran for the office of mayor. Speaking to the state board, Powell noted that paperwork attesting to the restoration of his right to hold public office had been lost, although he had a letter he said proves his claim.

Powell told the board members, which included Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, that following the 1992 incident for which he was convicted, he went through the “boot camp” program during the administration of former Gov. Zell Miller which was intended to deter first-time offenders from repeat offenses.

Powell told the panel that at the end of the program, he filled out paperwork to seek restoration of his civil rights, but the state’s copies of those papers have since been lost and state officials have been unable to find them. However, he said he has a letter dated 1994 from the state attesting that he did apply. He also told the board that he has voted, served on grand juries, and participated in his community.

Raffensperger said that Powell had been “an exemplary citizen” and had been a “productive, taxpaying Georgian and that’s what we want for every person who ever serves time.” He suggested that the case be sent back to the board’s investigators for further review.

Board member David Worley, an Atlanta attorney, recommended that the case against Powell be dismissed entirely on the condition that he send a copy of the 1994 state letter to the panel. The motion passed unanimously.

Regarding the Helton matter, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office declined comment on the specific case, but cited state law that empowers the office to bring the state board’s complaint before a county Superior Court. Then it would be determined what action, if any, should be followed.

No timetable for such proceedings is specified under state law.

A spokesperson for the Election Board would not comment on why these two matters that took place three years ago should have taken that long to come before the panel. However, he said delays are not unusual, due to the schedules of the board officers, time for investigation, and the delay of hearing cases caused by the pandemic. He noted that there was at least one case dating to 2016 that had been on the board’s Feb. 17 agenda.

There were several other cases on the agenda that involved a candidate allegedly making false statements during other municipal elections, including one case from LaGrange.

Other statewide cases referred to the Attorney General involved such matters as campaigning within 150 feet of a polling place, procedural violations while conducting a voter registration drive, and one case of a person “allegedly trying to buy votes by offering a free meal” to any voter in the 2019 Ringgold mayoral race.

The board found probable cause that Douglas County election officials violated state law for allegedly failing to upload a memory card containing 293 votes in the 2020 general election. Both Douglas County Election Supervisor Milton Kidd and the Douglas County Board of Elections and Registration were cited by the board.

Walter Jones, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said the attorney general’s office will decide whether to pursue the case with an administrative law judge. He said the charges are civil in nature and that if a judge finds Kidd and the county BOER guilty, a fine would most likely be the penalty. Jones said the fine would most likely be paid for by the county’s taxpayers.

Kidd did not respond to a message seeking comment on the case. He and the county BOER were represented at Thursday’s hearing by attorney Bill Linkous.

The 293 votes were found during a hand recount of the contentious presidential race ordered by Raffensperger.

Linkous said during Thursday’s meeting the county immediately notified the state after the memory card was found and the BOER recertified the results with the additional votes. President Joe Biden, who won Douglas County with about 62% of the vote, netted 28 votes after the 293 votes on the missing memory card were added to the total.

Linkous told the State Election Board that Douglas County hadn’t received enough training on the state’s new voting system by Dominion Voting Systems and that the county had to rely heavily on a technician provided by Dominion.

Douglas County Sentinel Managing Editor Ron Daniel contributed reporting for this article.


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County hires new E-911 director
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A 10-year veteran of public safety was chosen as Carroll County’s new E-911 director on Monday. Clay Patterson was hired for the post, which has been vacant since July, by County Commission Chairman Michelle Morgan, according to a press release.

Patterson is currently a county deputy sheriff.

He began his career at the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office as a jail detention officer after graduating from Haralson County High School in 2007 with honors, according to the release Patterson then advanced in his public safety career by holding titles such as a field training officer, patrol officer and instructor. He worked his way through the ranks from corporal to sergeant, according to the county’s release.

The City of Kingston then approached Patterson in 2012 during his time with Bartow County, according to his LinkedIn page, and he was asked to assist the local police department by recruiting and retaining staff. He then became the youngest police chief in the state with the Kingston police, according to the county’s release.

Patterson has a bachelor’s degree from Reinhardt University in organizational management and leadership, graduating magna cum laude. He is currently working on his master’s degree in communications at the University of Alabama.

“I am beyond grateful and humbled by the chairman’s decision to appoint me as the next director for the Carroll County E-911 Communication Center,” Patterson said in the release. “My entire adult career has revolved around public safety, and I could not be more excited to work with my colleagues to ensure that we bring our 911 center to the next level.”

The communications center has 911 call-takers and dispatchers who assist county residents and personnel from the different departments who respond to those calls. The county’s E-911 service began in August 1985 with 12 employees, including three supervisors and nine communications specialists, according to the county’s website. There are currently 35 employees who provide services to all county residents who dial 911.

Former E-911 director Trisha Orr left the post in July.

Morgan said in the release that she “welcomes the opportunity to watch Clay grow through this position” and added public safety “remains a top priority” for her and the Board of Commissioners.

“Whenever we can utilize the talents of our Carroll County employees and move them into positions that will benefit the citizens, I think it is the right move for everyone,” she said in a statement.

VRPD arrest Douglasville woman for multiple drug charges
  • Updated

A Douglasville woman faces multiple drug charges after officers say they found various drugs and paraphernalia hidden in her bag, clothing, and on her person last weekend.

Jessica Hope Edwards, 34, was charged by Villa Rica Police Saturday with three counts of illegal possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession and use of drug-related objects.

Around 7 p.m. Saturday, an officer observing the Industrial Boulevard and Rockmart Intersection in Villa Rica saw a 2015 Toyota Scion approach the stop sign. The officer ran the car’s tag through the Georgia Crime Information Center, according to the VRPD incident report.

The vehicle belonged to Carl Whitt, who had a possible warrant for probation violation through the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO), the report said. At that point, the report said the officer turned on his emergency lights and pulled the car over.

The report said the officer found Whitt and Edwards in the vehicle and smelled an odor of marijuana from the car. Edwards reportedly said was the odor coming from her backpack. The responding officers conducted a probable-cause search, in which they discovered a “gray, chalky-like substance that appears like concrete mixing powder” inside the vehicle.

Officers said the powdery substance is “Gray Death” — a term used by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations Crime Lab — which is an extremely addictive and fatal drug that contains high amounts of heroin, fentanyl and synthetic opioids, according to the report.

The report said officers arrested Edwards for possession of drugs and let Whitt go since the DCSO would not place a hold for the warrant due to COVID-19 protocols.

Officers took Edwards to the VRPD station to conduct a more in-depth search, the report said. The report said authorities found three plastic bags containing methamphetamine in Edwards’ bra and a glass pipe inside her body. Officers also found ecstasy pills inside her backpack after searching it for a second time, according to the report.

Authorities sent Edwards to the Carroll County Jail, where she remains without a set bond as of Monday afternoon.