Lead­er­ship un­cer­tainty dogs Nel­son Heights

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

Last Tues­day, the New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers voted to re­move Com­mis­sioner J.C. Hen­der­son as chair­man of the Nel­son Heights Cen­ter, a fa­cil­ity ded­i­cated to help­ing chil­dren after school. The mat­ter seemed open and closed — he was the chair­man, then he wasn’t.

Hen­der­son said Thurs­day the sit­u­a­tion is far from sim­ple.

“I think the min­utes are not of­fi­cial un­til the next meet­ing (Sept. 16),” he said, “so we’re go­ing to go as is ‘till the min­utes are ap­proved at the next meet­ing. Right now they aren’t of­fi­cial.”

He said he fully in­tends to re­spect the board’s decision after the min­utes are made of­fi­cial and step down as the cen­ter’s chair­man, but he’s not sure what will hap­pen then. He’s called county at­tor­ney W. Thomas Craig but said he didn’t have a clear an­swer Thurs­day af­ter­noon as to how a new chair­man and mem­ber should be ap­pointed.

Hen­der­son and board mem­ber James Rus­sell agreed that the board has six mem­bers: Hen­der­son (for now), Rus­sell, Kenny Wil­liams, For­est Sawyer, Muriel

Min­ter and Al­bert Bet­nton. County Com­mis­sion Chair­man Keith El­lis is an ex-of­fi­cio mem­ber.

The cen­ter’s web­site lists Cov­ing­ton Mayor Ron­nie John­ston and City Coun­cil­woman Ocie Franklin as mem­bers, as well.

Con­cern­ing what the board would do go­ing for­ward, Rus­sell said he wasn’t “at lib­erty to talk about it yet,” but then did so: “It’s just straight up lu­di­crous” that Hen­der­son was re­moved from the board.

“I’ve known him for 20 years, (and) I have never known him to take one dime or mis­treat any­body,” Rus­sell said. “If I had one per­son on that board (of com­mis­sion­ers) I had to trust, it would only be him.”

Hen­der­son was still up­set about Tues­day’s sur­pris­ing vote. A dis­cus­sion about Hen­der­son and the check he re­ceived from the county as a pay­check ad­vance to help send his son to col­lege was not on the agenda. But com­mis­sion­ers voted at the be­gin­ning of the meet­ing to add it, giv­ing him no time to re­spond or think things through.

“They wanted me to re­spond to some­thing they had worked on for a while,” he said. “If J.C. Hen­der­son had some­thing to say about somebody or make ac­cu­sa­tions about somebody, I would give them a chance to say some­thing. It’s the right thing to do. I wasn’t given an op­por­tu­nity to de­fend my­self be­cause I didn’t know what they were talk­ing about. (County law) says you’re not sup­posed to have a meet­ing be­fore the meet­ing or after, but some­thing was co­or­di­nated here.

“I think it’s a witch hunt to­ward me,” he said. “We’re hop­ing to see after next meet­ing, maybe the com­mu­nity might come out, hope­fully, and say we don’t like the way things are go­ing. Maybe if enough peo­ple come out, we might change it.”

No mat­ter what, Rus­sell said, the Nel­son Heights Cen­ter shouldn’t be the vic­tim of con­tro­versy

“First of all, it brings more hope to the com­mu­nity as well as the county,” he said. “You have dif­fer­ent types of pro­grams to help the chil­dren. The whole pur­pose of it is to help somebody, and that can be uni­ver­sally.”

When all is said and done, Hen­der­son said, “we have to pull to­gether and do what­ever we can do and put somebody else in that spot and go for­ward. We’ll do it out of re­spect out of the board. We can dis­agree, and I dis­agree with them 100 per­cent, but we’re go­ing to do what they voted.”

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