Chairman Kathy Morgan issued the following press release to print and television media just hours prior to a 7 p.m. Board of Commissioners work session:
"The Act to Create the Newton County Board of Commissioners is local legislation enacted by the General Assembly of Georgia. This defines the county form of government and assigns primary policy-making and executive responsibilities; it also influences the way county officials interact."
"Newton County is an elected executive form of government in which the Board of Commissioners is the policy-making collective body and the Chairman is the administrative officer (elected executive) of the county. The Chairmans acts are binding, but the Commissioners have a remedy to nullify these acts within 30 days. The Commissioners shall not enter into administrative acts, contact employees or personnel of the county in relation to duties, work habits or request any services or actions except through the chairman. Many more duties and remedies are specified for the Chairman and Commissioners to provide a separation of powers which creates checks and balances."
Tonight, the Board of Commissioners and I as Chairman will have a work-session to outline the duties of a new position to fill the gap created by the resignation of John Middleton effective December 15th, 2011, said Kathy Morgan. Mr. Middleton and I have worked together to share the administrative duties to effectively and efficiently manage the day to day duties of Newton County. That position reported to both the Board of Commissioners and the Chairman and did not dilute the checks and balances.
The duties assigned to this new position could change our form of government. Although the Georgia Constitution specifies that local legislation cannot change the form of government without voter approval, there is one law that allows the Board of Commissioners to do just that, Morgan continued. By a majority vote of the Board of Commissioners, they can adopt an ordinance to create a county manager position to assume the administrative duties currently assigned to the Chairman. This county manager position will report to the Board of Commissioners, and the Chairman may be stripped of the authority to perform the duties as authorized by the voters through the election process. This changes the form of government to a commission-manager form of government. No notice is required to the voters, nor is voter approval necessary.
The Commission-manager form of government is an appointed position and the least responsive to the voters. A professional manager is hired by the Board of Commissioners to provide administrative functions. But pay attention to this: The average term a county manager serves is three years because one of three things generally happen: the manager resigns, commissioners terminate contract or the contract expires.
I see this proposed action as a political maneuver to dissolve the authority given to the Chairman by the voters during the electoral process and that would limit checks and balances that are part of the separation of powers in our current form of government. Changing the form of government is a serious decision and one that should not be made by a vote of three. I believe such a change in government should require voter approval.
I have made the Commissioners aware that my re-election platform will include a call to review five forms of county government, Morgan continued. The voters needed to be educated. Committees from each district need to be created to review options and make recommendations to the Board of Commissioners, and in turn, the board may choose to place the recommended change to Newton Countys form of government on the ballot in 2014. If approved by the voters, a transition to a new form of government would take place in 2016.
I am encouraging voters to attend the work-session tonight at 7PM to see firsthand the political process that could, in effect, disenfranchise them from having a say in what form of government they want. I am open to the outcome of a process that involves the citizens of Newton County but opposed to seeing three commissioners reject a system of checks and balances for political motives.
Newton County Board of Commissioners