New­ton BOC Meth­ods Dis­ap­point­ing

The Covington News - - OPINION -

The struc­ture of county gov­ern­ment was on the New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sioner’s (BOC) agenda again at its Sept. 2, 2014 meet­ing. It was on the se­cret agenda of Dis­trict Com­mis­sioner Le­vie Mad­dox, that is. As read­ers may re­call, this has been a topic of dis­cus­sion since Fe­bru­ary and the BOC has met with ex­perts from both the As­so­ci­a­tion of County Com­mis­sion­ers of Ge­or­gia (ACCG) and the North­east Ge­or­gia Re­gional Com­mis­sion sev­eral times. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of both clearly have in­di­cated that hav­ing both a full time com­mis­sion chair­man and a county man­ager should be changed to im­prove the ef­fi­ciency and ef­fec­tive­ness of county gov­ern­ment.

De­spite mul­ti­ple work ses­sions, the last held Aug. 22, the BOC failed to make a decision on the chair­man and county man­ager’s du­ties. Some on the BOC seemed mostly in­ter­ested in pro­tect­ing the sta­tus quo and main­tain­ing as much per­sonal au­thor­ity as pos­si­ble. The lat­ter is eas­ier with an ap­pointed county man­ager who re­ports di­rectly to the BOC.

Now, let’s fast for­ward to the BOC meet­ing of Sept. 2, 2014. In a sur­prise mo­tion that passed quickly, the BOC made a crit­i­cal decision about our fu­ture gov­ern­ment struc­ture. This came not after a clearly thought out strat­egy to im­prove county gov­ern­ment, but in a quick, puni­tive re­ac­tion to the poor judg­ment Chair­man Keith El­lis used in the in the Hen­der­son check episode.

Yes, Chair­man El­lis made a bad decision. But the man­ner used to strip him of his re­main­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties was appalling. When the printed agenda called for the BOC to ap­prove hir­ing Tom Gar­rett as county man­ager, Le­vie Mad­dox made a mo­tion to ex­pand the du­ties of the county man­ager to in­clude “en­gi­neer­ing and fleet man­age­ment,” fur­ther gut­ting the Chair­man’s role in county gov­ern­ment. Mr. Mad­dox later au­tho­rized Gar­rett to hire “con­sul­tants” to help him learn his new role.

While the ac­tions of the BOC were not sur­pris­ing after the check con­tro­versy, the last minute agenda change and sur­prise mo­tion by Mr. Mad­dox had the ef­fect of elim­i­nat­ing any pub­lic no­tice of that this would be taken up by the BOC at this meet­ing. This move also bush­whacked other com­mis­sion­ers not al­ready in on the plan. Com­mis­sioner Mad­dox used this same tac­tic to push for­ward the 2050 Plan last month.

This may have been good po­lit­i­cal strat­egy on Mr. Mad­dox’ part, but it was to­tally dis­re­spect­ful of the pub­lic’s right to hear and have in­put into de­bates about crit­i­cal county is­sues. And, it shows that such de­ci­sions of­ten are made in a po­lit­i­cal con­text gather than con­sid­er­ing what is best for New­ton tax­pay­ers. We de­serve and pay for bet­ter gov­ern­ment than this.

Larry McSwain Cov­ing­ton Ge­or­gia

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