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BOC appoints Middleton county manager

COVINGTON - Newton County will operate under the direction of a county manager, commissioners agreed by a 3 to 2 vote Tuesday night, and Administrative Officer John Middleton has been appointed to that position. Middleton resigned last summer; his last day was to be December 15.

Commissioner Mort Ewing asked Middleton during the meeting if he would remain on if he was appointed county manager and he responded that he would, "pending working details out with the board." Middleton's salary will not increase. His office will be moved from the Historic Courthouse, also the location of the chairman's office, to the Administrative Building.

The county manager will be responsible for all departments with the exception of roads and bridges, which will remain under the authority of the chairman. The county manager will report solely to the Board of Commissioners and not the chair. However, the county manager will provide departmental updates to the chair and the board. The chair will retain the ability to hire and fire. However, the county charter requires majority approval of the board for hiring and firing, except in the roads and bridges department.

The discussion leading up to the vote was long and impassioned, with audience members frequently applauding, yelling out and booing throughout.

Commissioner Nancy Schulz attempted to delay the action until more information could be obtained, saying she's concerned the manager won't be directly responsive to voters. Schulz made the motion to retain the county administrative officer position, meanwhile commissioning the Carl Vinson Institute of Government to hold public meetings to educate citizens and consult on a change to a county manager form of government at a cost of $7,000. After the citizenry is educated, Schulz recommended holding a referendum and if approved by votes, requesting that the Georgia General Assembly pass enabling legislation. Commissioner Lanier Sims seconded the motion.

Ewing then offered a substitute motion to pass a job description, organizational chart and resolution creating the job of county manager, which won approval of Commissioners Tim Fleming and J.C. Henderson.

Schulz said there appears to be an overlap between the job description of the chairman and county manager. The county's charter makes the chairman the administrative officer of the county.

"To the extent possible we've respected the inherent power, duties and authority of the chair. There's no question the day-to-day operations of the county under this job description is vested in another individual," said County Attorney Tommy Craig.

The new duties of the county manager appear to be in conflict with the charter, which states that the board cannot contact any employees or personnel of the county to request any service or action except through the chairman.

But Craig said the job description has been "tailored to address any peculiarities that might exist with the Newton County charter."

Craig has advised the board the new position is not a change in the form of government and said the Supreme Court has upheld that. But Chairman Kathy Morgan said while legally it may not be, it strips the authority of the chair granted by the citizens of the county. Morgan said no change should happen without public input.

"I don't hear any respect for the voters or the chairman's position. I believe in the political process. I believe in the Democratic process. I will respect the action you take but I want you to know I will continue to pursue whatever I deem to be necessary to protect the rights of the voters of this county as long as I'm in this office," she said, and the crowd erupted into applause.

Morgan said after the meeting she has hired a personal attorney that she is paying with her own money to advise her on her legal options.

Though several citizens spoke in favor of the change during public comments, the overall tone of the meeting was one of anger by the populace.

"I think the voters ought to decide," one man yelled out. "I do too," said another audience member. "Ya'll don't run everything," another one chimed in.

Ewing, Fleming and Henderson said they have been threatened since publicly announcing a week ago their intentions to hire a county manager.

Henderson said he and his family have been threatened and Ewing said an individual attempted to have him fired from his job with insurance company Jones Ewing Dobbs and Tamplin.

"It's deplorable some would stoop to that level, to threaten an elected official,to threaten their families, to threaten their children," said Fleming.

Henderson also addressed accusations that Ewing and Fleming are advising him how to vote.

"I'm 55 years of age and nobody tells me what to do," he said.

Comments

smallTown 2 years, 8 months ago

You can't tell me that this was not a SET UP from the start between Mort Ewing and John "Mr. Burns" Middleton. Hope the county is ready to have small malls and stores at the entrance to every subdivision. Cause they kept comparing Covington to how well it works. The county can't afford to work this way with only home-owner taxes paying for everything. THE VOTERS NO LONGER MATTER IN NEWTON COUNTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Frustrated 2 years, 8 months ago

Well looks like the Three Musketeers got their way....AGAIN. When is this county going to wake up and realize the county is being run by three commissioners? Now they (Ewing, Henderson and Fleming) have changed the type of government Newton County has and will be run by someone they decided to appoint. It is time to break up this voting block and get people in that really care about the County and not just their own interests.

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56vick 2 years, 8 months ago

Poor Chairperson, now she has to worry about her pursuit of power instead of doing county business. I sure hope her business partners will be OK .But don't worry so much madam chairperson come November you won't have to worry about running county business . Hope the federal government hasn't emptied the unemployment funds before you have a chance to collect them. Here's a free word of advice save your money, an attorney can't help you now. I bet you feel like all the other county employee's you failed to help over the last three years!

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henrystamm 2 years, 8 months ago

Looks like the corruption and spend and tax entities have switched from the dems to the elitists and arrogant Republicans. Power corrupts!!!!!!!!!!!!

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will 2 years, 8 months ago

mort and his two flunkies are at work again. this trio has got to go, one good olboy, one wanna be, and the other is the joke of all the BOC. mort uses these two puppets like toys. next election will be here soon.

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nednewton 2 years, 8 months ago

Come election time Commissioners Henderson and Fleming, along with their ring leader Ewing, need to be told by the citizens of Newton County that we will not stand for this type of behavior. And the pompas county attorney needs to be sent packing, too. What a disgrace.

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Silverbullet 2 years, 8 months ago

"Its all political." Isn't everything? I don't see where much has changed. The Chair is still in charge of hiring and firing and roads and bridges. Middleton is still doing day to day chores. Tommy Craig is still not building a reservoir and getting paid for it. Am I missing something? Let me tell you what either system boils down to: If you have competent, honest people running the County, either system works. If you don't, neither system works.

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billyp66 2 years, 8 months ago

I agree. As long as honest people is running things it will be ok, but if not thats why we have electios.

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will 2 years, 8 months ago

It is a good thing shorty did not get elected mayor of covington. For some reason when you said competent , honest people running the county it made me think the city needs that also and the short dude already proved his abilities are somewhat taken if you know what I mean.

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livingart 2 years, 8 months ago

Let's see - Mr. Middleton resigned admin officer, accepted a higher position (in same county government) with probably more money and benefits (now or certainly later) and more power, with only the approval of 3 commissioners and the knowledge of an overpaid attorney. Okay - now Newton County tax payers, are you paying attention.

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Consider_This 2 years, 8 months ago

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It's appalling that THREE members of the Newton County Board do NOT care what TAXPAYING VOTERS think. Taxpayers are source of most county revenue. This "movement" was RAMMED through, in just a few weeks, with no opportunity for public input from either voters or business.

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I for one might be in favor of having a "County Manager" - IF - it were done with adequate investigation, voter input and safeguards. Yes, the timing (mid term) undermines the VOTERS who chose the Commission Chair. But worse, the WAY Ewing, Fleming and Henderson conducted this "coup" offends on many levels. Their constituents should be OUTRAGED!

Ewing did say, however, only 4 people, other than press, attended the "work meeting." Apparently they thought no one would notice this if they slipped it in fast.

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The new "County Manager" serves "under contract" at one year intervals. This could create rapid turn over and little stability in a key position. It would have been better to align the job description so that the position runs for say, 18 month intervals so there is overlap/continuity, when new Commissioners are elected. It's hard to say what else should have been different as, the job description of "County Manager" was read, but no copies were available for the public to compare to the current description of "Operations Manager." But it wouldn't have mattered since it was apparent what taxpayers thought wasn't a consideration.

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Did Middleton "retire" or resign? Retire might indicate he is could now collect a government pension while "under contract" to the county. Did he resign with agreement of certain Board Members in order to get more power? The public doesn't know and that casts a shadow over those concerned.

Qualified applicants were NOT sought, it was a forgone conclusion that "the details" could be worked out to Middleton's satisfaction.

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Now, couple that with a statement made by the county attorney, on another matter, that would seem to indicate, bids are required only for equipment purchases, but NOT service contract/agreements**** and it opens another issue.

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As taxpayers we need MORE SUNSHINE on these issues; and the actions of these three are keeping us in the dark. WHY?

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Now, will County Attorney Craig also get paid, by taxpayers, to defend this legal advice?

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56vick 2 years, 8 months ago

If you poured all the commissioners , the Chairperson and the county attorney into a bag shook them up and poured them out you couldn't tell them apart.All are self serving and could care less about the good of the county .The Answer is simple vote them all out we couldn't do any worse with all new people in office. Maybe the soon to be ex mayor of Covington and the mayor (short guy wanna be mayor ) could run on the same ticket ..Then we could run the rails to trails right up to the new Cow pen ( uncle Morty's) that is soon to come to us

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Billy 2 years, 8 months ago

I saw the same thing in Henry county, from where I moved before I hit the big time with speed traps all over Newton--classy! Makes Locust Grove look good! I don't know why Republicans get into office and then start acting like Democrats, spending left and right, acting like elections are coronations. Spend as little as possible, elected people. Why is that so hard to observe???

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bdawg405 2 years, 8 months ago

dude you must be the one not pay attention. this county has had major decreases in the budget over the last 3 years, so how could you say they "are spending left and right, acting like elections are coronations" oh and by the way you must not pay attention to the speed limits either.

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