Hen­der­son stripped of fi­nan­cial pow­ers

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - ROB DEWIG rdewig@cov­news.com

The New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers sim­ply crushed Com­mis­sioner J.C. Hen­der­son Tues­day night, strip­ping him of all fi­nan­cial pow­ers and forc­ing him off the boards of the Nel­son Heights Com­mu­nity Cen­ter and the Recre­ation Com­mis­sion.

Com­mis­sioner Nancy Schulz made the com­plex mo­tion near the end of Tues­day’s meet­ing, of­fi­cially re­mov­ing Hen- der­son from all boards with “fidu­ciary,” or fi­nan­cial, power, de­mand­ing his re­moval from the Nel­son Heights board (he was the chair­man) and the Recre­ation Board, re-key­ing the locks to the cen­ter’s doors, sus­pend­ing all land ac­qui­si­tions by the Nel­son Heights board, and, ini­tially, call­ing for the dis­so­lu­tion of the cen­ter’s en­tire board of direc­tors.

The lat­ter was re­moved at Com­mis­sioner John Dou­glas’ sug­ges­tion, but the

re­main­der passed 4-1, with Hen­der­son ob­vi­ously against.

Hen­der­son was vis­i­bly stunned. Last week, he re­quested and re­ceived from Com­mis­sion Chair­man Keith El­lis a check for $4,500 to help send his son to col­lege. There was a clear prece­dent for such pay­check ad­vances, although County At­tor­ney W. Thomas Craig has said they may vi­o­late the state con­sti­tu­tion’s gra­tu­ities clause. Hen­der­son paid the loan back in 10 days, rather than in $85 in­cre­ments in 52 weeks as called for in the pa­per­work orig­i­nally filed.

Schulz ac­cused Hen­der­son of violating the com­mis­sion’s code of ethics and his oath of of­fice. She also de­cried mis­man­age­ment at Nel­son Heights.

“My un­der­stand­ing is the board has not met” in a long time, she said. “Right now the board is not func­tion­ing.”

Hen­der­son fired back that he was “not fined or locked up for any­thing, or con­victed of a felony or any­thing” for the check. “This is per­sonal.”

“Truly, any­thing we have done in the com­mu­nity with peo­ple of color, she (Schulz) has been against,” Hen­der­son said. “She has re­ally just been a night­mare to me … She wanted her friend to get elected (over Hen­der­son) but she didn’t get elected. J.C. Hen­der­son did.

“There is no ba­sis for me to step down from any board.” No crime was com­mit­ted with the check, he said, “not even an eth­i­cal crime. It’s all Com­mis­sioner Schulz.”

Com­mis­sioner Le­vie Mad­dox tried to soften the blow, say­ing that Hen­der­son could per­haps work for boards with fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity in the fu­ture, but Hen­der­son would have none of that.

“If I did some­thing eth­i­cally wrong, there should be some min­utes (from pre­vi­ous meet­ings prov­ing that), and there are none,” he said.

Schulz added that she be­lieved “tonight we have be­gun the process of tak­ing ac­tion on the breach of pub­lic trust. To fully re­store pub­lic con­fi­dence, we as a board were com­pletely trans­par­ent and be­lieve the event of Com­mis­sioner Hen­der­son’s cash ad­vance is fully in­ves­ti­gated. If we have noth­ing to hide we should wel­come in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

Hen­der­son said he was just dis­ap­pointed in ev­ery­thing: “We used to be a group of car­ing peo­ple.

“We live in strange times. I guess you are guilty be­cause of the sim­ple fact that you may not agree with the same ideas that some do and the way you be­lieve … The good news is — I got some good news out of all this — The Lord I serve is the one who sits up high; He knows each of us bet­ter than we know our­selves. He is a just God. What I’m say­ing is that it’s not for me to pun­ish or con­demn or ac­cuse; it’s for Him to give out the pun­ish­ment that each of us even­tu­ally will one day get.”

El­lis, for his part, said Hen­der­son’s sit­u­a­tion was a “tragedy.”

“Com­mis­sioner Hen­der­son has served this county for six terms. The recre­ation depart­ment has been very near and dear to him (and) some­thing he re­ally loves is Nel­son Heights. I’m sad­dened by both,” he said.

Is­su­ing checks has been done be­fore, but “now he’s tak­ing a lot of other stress and strain. I don’t par­tic­u­larly like tonight. Maybe I’m part of the prob­lem. If I am, com­mis­sioner (Hen­der­son), I’m sorry.”

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