Friday, November 03, 2006

John Brownlee Continues To Impress Me

John Brownlee continues to impress me.

Those of you who do not know my recent background may not be aware that the current problems here in Henry County are not my first introduction to John Brownlee, United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia.

Some of you may make the connection to the recent blog conference I organized (with substantial help) here in Henry County, which featured as one of it's speakers John Brownlee. That was my second introduction to Mr. Brownlee. Even though it was my first personal meeting with him.

I'm willing to wager that most of you do not remember the "Big Coon Dog" investigation a few years ago in Buchanan County. Go read the link, I'll be here when you get back.

In May of 2002 there was a devastating flood in the Northwestern portion of Buchanan County where I lived at the time. It took us all by surprise, I was working at the time in Kemper Kentucky, about 25 miles away, and had spent the day in placid solitude in my office realizing that it had been raining most of the day. It was only during my drive home that I realized that this particular rain was different. When I got near the small town of Phelps, Kentucky on my way home I noticed that the water level in the small creeks feeding into the Knox River was exceedingly high. In order to get home that evening I had to take a few detours through some surface mining roads that I was aware of due to my occupation at that time.

My home was quite a bit upstream from the town of Hurley, and although the kid's swingset was threatened, there was no damage incurred on the Foley estate. I called work the following morning to inform them that I was volunteering to work to clean up the community. I am fortunate that I was raised the son of a heavy equipment operator, so I was familiar with a backhoe, loader, bulldozer and other such equipment.

I went to work the following morning operating a bobcat loader. While cleaning up the debris I personally found one of the two fatalities of the flood.

I also noticed that after putting one or two dipper loads into the waiting dump truck, I would turn around and find that truck gone and another truck backing in to receive a load. A bobcat cannot load a dump truck with two scoops. It quickly became apparent to me what was happening, since I knew the trucks were being paid by the load. I told Joe Stephens that I would no longer have a part in this operation and went back to work in Kemper the following day.

I was doing this work for Joe Stephens, the owner of Vansant Lumber in Vansant, Virginia, just east of Grundy on US 460. Joe was subsequently indicted in the Big Coon Dog investigation I linked to above. I'll go even further here. I made a deal with Joe for some lumber to be used for a deck on my home in Hurley. It was to be paid for by my service as a loader operator on some property in the southwest corner of Buchanan County, property he acquired through the previously named scam. I did the work. I'm still being dunned for the lumber.

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