Sher­iff’s use of Tommy Craig ques­tioned

The Covington News - - LOCAL - BRYAN FAZIO bfazio@cov­news.com

The board voted against ap­prov­ing the county’s fi­nan­cial re­port and check reg­istry due to an in­voice from the W. T. Craig Law Firm.

Ac­cord­ing to Dis­trict 5 Com­mis­sioner Le­vie Mad­dox, the county paid $93,000 to the for­mer county at­tor­ney this fis­cal year 2017. In con­trast, the county’s cur­rent at­tor­ney Jar­rard and Davis has been paid $194,000, of which $44,000 is paid di­rectly to Fra­zier and Deeter CPAs and Ad­vi­sors for a foren­sic au­dit, he said.

The BOC voted to use an in-house at­tor­ney in Novem­ber, rather than the law firm of Tommy Craig. This sum­mer, the board voted to hire Jar­rard and Davis as its at­tor­ney.

How­ever, un­der state law, con­sti­tu­tional of­fi­cers are al­lowed to hire their own at­tor­neys and set their own bud­get. Ac­cord­ing to Kerr, the use of Craig is from the county’s other elected of­fi­cials, not the board.

“The rea­son the New­ton County Sher­iff’s Of­fice con­tin­ues to re­tain the ser­vices of At­tor­ney Craig is be­cause his of­fice has 40 years of ser­vices work­ing with law en­force­ment and jail ser­vices,” said Sher­iff Ezell Brown in a state­ment. “You need some­one with that level of ex­pe­ri­ence, knowl­edge and ex­per­tise to ad­dress the type of is­sues we face on a daily ba­sis. I feel the Sher­iff’s Of­fice is for­tu­nate to have le­gal ser­vices with these ca­pa­bil­i­ties at our dis­posal that pro­vide a high level of work at rea­son­able prices. We have faced cases that have reached su­pe­rior, fed­eral and court of ap­peals that this le­gal team was able to uti­lize their skills so that the New­ton County Sher­iff’s Of­fice was able to walk away with­out any or se­vere dam­ages.”

Brown was asked why the in­voices from Craig were very vague and did not list out what ser­vices the at­tor­ney was be­ing paid for.

“In the of­fice of the sher­iff, we pur­pose­fully do that for many rea­sons,” Brown said to the board. “When we have an in­di­vid­ual or an of­fi­cer who are in­volved in law­suits we pur­pose­fully code that so that you or the gen­eral pub­lic will not be able to call the par­tic­u­lar of­fi­cer and say that you’re in a law­suit, [and use that for lever­age].

The BOC’s vote against the fi­nan­cial re­port and check reg­istry is a sym­bolic ges­ture, as the bills have al­ready been paid.

Later in the week, Brown said in a state­ment that he would con­tinue to uti­lize con­trac­tors in­de­pen­dently for the best re­sults for his of­fice.

“As men­tioned so elo­quently by Com­mis­sioner [Le­vie] Mad­dox, as well as other mem­bers, this cur­rent board is dys­func­tional and has of­ten proven it­self to be reck­less,” Brown said. “His­tory has shown the cur­rent New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers does not have a rep­utable track record in mak­ing sound de­ci­sions for the County. But yet they have con­sis­tently tried to con­trol the ex­pen­di­tures of the Of­fice of the Sher­iff bud­get which is beyond their ju­ris­dic­tion.”

Tues­day was one in­stance of sev­eral that the board has ques­tioned spend­ing since the ap­proval of the 2017 fis­cal year bud­get. New­ton County’s Fi­nance Direc­tor, Ni­cole Cross, re­ported to the BOC that the county’s con­tin­gency fund is neg­a­tive-$120,000.

“We are look­ing at ar­eas we can ex­pe­ri­ence cost sav­ing to add to that neg­a­tive con­tin­gency,” Cross said.

IN OTHER BUSI­NESS: NEW AD­DI­TIONS TO COUNTY PARKS

Dur­ing the Chair­man’s re­port, El­lis an­nounced two ad­di­tions soon to be added to the New­ton County park sys­tem.

One will be for man’s best friend at Chim­ney Park. Sandy’s Park — a dog park— will soon be added through a con­tri­bu­tion from pri­vate ci­ti­zens, ef­forts from the county’s pub­lic works depart­ment and fenc­ing be­ing reused from near the pub­lic de­fender’s of­fice.

The other park will be be­hind the New­ton County Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing, cour­tesy of the Cov­ing­ton Ro­tary Club. The Ro­tary Club uti­lized pavers left over from its Mir­a­cle Field project and paid for four benches sur­round­ing the club’s Ro­to­spoke log. The park will also have trees planted around it the county is uti­liz­ing from a depart­ment of trans­porta­tion project.

LAND OR­DI­NANCE CHANGES

Prop­erty own­ers in an area zoned agri­cul­ture res­i­den­tial in the county will be able to trans­fer a min­i­mum of one acre to a fam­ily mem­ber with­out go­ing through the zon­ing process, fol­low­ing a unan­i­mous vote by the BOC Tues­day.

The prop­erty be­ing trans­ferred will not be re­quired to have road frontage.

“This will make it eas­ier for some­one to trans­fer prop­erty who does not want to go through the zon­ing process,” New­ton County Man­ager Lloyd Kerr said.

El­lis, who said he has a piece of prop­erty that has been in his fam­ily since 1833, found the new or­di­nance use­ful.

“I in­tend to uti­lize this or­di­nance to al­low my three chil­dren to have a lot on the prop­erty I still have,” he said.

CHANGES FOR LAKE-SIDE PROP­ERTY OWN­ERS

Home­own­ers along Jack­son Lake will be able to place build­ings in their front yards af­ter changes to the 2009 zon­ing or­di­nance were amended by the BOC Tues­day.

The or­di­nance ac­com­mo­dates properties in which there is lit­tle room on the side yard, or in the back, be­tween the home and water­front for the ad­di­tion of a build­ing.

The or­di­nance change also al­lows for build­ings, such as well houses or barns to be put on a prop­erty no smaller than five acres that does not have a struc­ture, such as a home on it.

ROADS TO BE WORKED ON

Dis­trict 5 Com­mis­sioner Le­vie Mad­dox re­quested four roads from his dis­trict to be added to the 2011 SPLOST road list. The roads are Stephen­son Road, White Lau­rel Lane, River Shoals Court and Au­tumn Leave Lane.

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