To Chair­man Keith El­lis

The Covington News - - OPINION - Dear editor, Tom West, Steve Brown, Mau­rice Carter, Tonya Bechtler, Aaron Brooks, Bar­bara Mor­gan, Wes­ley Dowdy

The at­tor­ney for East Ge­or­gia Land and De­vel­op­ment Com­pany is de­mand­ing the county pro­duce a long­sought zon­ing com­pli­ance let­ter say­ing that the com­pany’s 427-acre tract ad­ja­cent to the New­ton County land­fill met the county zon­ing in ef­fect in June 1997. The county was or­dered to do so in a rul­ing by the Ge­or­gia Supreme Court in Oc­to­ber 2014 af­ter a 17-year le­gal bat­tle.

That at­tor­ney also de­mands a sec­ond let­ter which would state that East Ge­or­gia’s plan to de­velop a land­fill was not in vi­o­la­tion of the county’s Solid Waste Man­age­ment Plan (SWMP) in ef­fect in June 1997. This de­mand goes far be­yond the Supreme Court’s rul­ing.

The county must pro­vide the zon­ing com­pli­ance let­ter as or­dered, but the is­suance of a SWMP com­pli­ance let­ter is a new and dif­fer­ent mat­ter. The Board of Com­mis­sion­ers must tread care­fully at this point. There are sig­nif­i­cant le­gal is­sues to be ad- dressed be­fore ac­qui­esc­ing to this de­mand that the county waive ob­jec­tions to the use of East Ge­or­gia’s land as a land­fill un­der the SWMP in ef­fect in 1997. That plan was ini­tially adopted in 1993 and amended in 2008.

There are other le­gal is­sues to be an­a­lyzed as the land­fill saga con­tin­ues.

The Supreme Court de­ci­sion against New­ton County ruled that the zon­ing or­di­nance of 1985 had not been legally adopted be­cause zon­ing maps were not at­tached to the or­di­nance. Now it must be de­cided whether the re­spon­si­bil­ity for that fail­ure rests on the county at­tor­ney who wrote and guided the or­di­nance through the adop­tion process.

If so, there fol­lows the next sce­nario: When an at­tor­ney rep­re­sents a client, he or she must meet a cer­tain stan­dard of care in per­form­ing ser­vices, i.e. mak­ing sure that the adop­tion of zon­ing or­di­nances is done ap­pro­pri­ately and ac­cord- ing to ex­ist­ing law such that it can with­stand le­gal chal­lenges. A re­view of the facts in this case by out­side coun­sel may sug­gest that New­ton County should de­mand from the county at­tor­ney’s pro­fes­sional li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance car­rier pay­ment of the costs of de­fend­ing the case. That is why at­tor­neys carry pro­fes­sional li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance.

Fur­ther­more, the county at­tor­ney or his de­signees should be dis­qual­i­fied from fur­ther in­volve­ment in any lit­i­ga­tion in­volv­ing East Ge­or­gia or set­tle­ment dis­cus­sions since the county at­tor­ney might have a vested in­ter­est in the out­come. The re­spon­si­bil­ity for seek­ing an­swers to these ques­tions and is­sues lies firmly with the Board of Com­mis­sion­ers who should be cau­tioned to seek out­side le­gal coun­sel at once and per­form all due dili­gence.

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