State rep uses county staff to clear driveway

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Public Works Department was instructed to spread sand on the driveway of state Rep. Doug Holt, R-Social Circle, and move his vehicles so he could get to the state Capitol on Monday.

Holt, who lives in east Newton, called the Citizen Tuesday to explain the situation and apologize for what he called "an error in judgment." An Atlanta news station was informed through an anonymous tip and had just left Holt's house midday Tuesday when he made the call.

Holt said he was panicked Monday when he could not get his vehicles out of his driveway to participate in the General Assembly session. At that time, the session was under way and was expected to take place Tuesday as well. Since then, Gov. Nathan Deal canceled the session for Tuesday.

Holt called Newton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Kathy Morgan and asked for a list of contractors who could help him get out of his driveway by Tuesday. At that point, Morgan said she offered the assistance of the county Public Works crew. A crew was already in the area and Morgan said she instructed them to finish their work on roadways and bridges before heading to Holt's house. Morgan said she and Holt discussed the appropriateness of the situation, and he agreed to the assistance only if he could fully reimburse the county.

Morgan said the TV news media were reporting that the Georgia State Patrol was giving legislators rides to the Capitol, and she thought the least the county government could do was help Holt out of his driveway.

The county will arrange transportation for employees to get to work in emergency situations, and she said this was no different.

"I feel like he is an employee of the county. Even if he's not technically a county employee, he is an employee of Newton County as a representative. If the Legislature had started, that's what he was elected by the people of this county to do and that's where he needed to be," she said. "Maybe it was a misjudgment on my part, but I felt the offer for compensation was reasonable and we didn't pull Public Works off the roadways. They were already over there, and they were told to finish what they were working on first."

The crew spent about an hour spreading sand and moving two vehicles so that Holt could safely exit his driveway. Morgan said she instructed the crew to keep up with their hours and Holt will be invoiced next week. She said she doesn't know the cost of the work, as administration at the Public Works Department is not in the office due to the weather.

Holt said he made a mistake, but never intended to abuse his position.

"I thought we would be in session the next day, and I let myself get too anxious," he said. "I let myself make an error in judgment, and I apologize for it."