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BOC considers govt. form change

COVINGTON -- Commissioners are entering discussions about whether to change the county's form of government.

The issue was brought up during a recent board discussion of the job description for the administrative officer position. John Middleton resigned from that position over the summer; his last day will be in December.

Chairman Kathy Morgan said she does not personally support a change to a county manager form of government, but added that if that's the direction the board is headed, the matter should go before voters.

Currently, the county operates under an elected executive form of government, with day-to-day administrative duties of the county the responsibility of the chair, according to the county charter. If a switch is made to a county manager form of government, the chair would become largely a figurehead, Morgan said, and daily operations would be handed over to an nonelected professional that does not have direct accountability to the people.

Morgan said the county manager form of government leaves open too much room for influence and control over a non-elected official by individual commissioners, with fewer checks and balances.

"If you have a really strong district commissioner, one or two of them can take away the voters' influence on decision-making. Things may not be as openly discussed publicly," she said. "If (commissioners) redirect the day- to-day duties from the way the charter currently reads, they've changed the form of government and that's the part I don't agree with. If we want to change the form of government we need to take it to committees and go county-wide educating the populace on the forms of government and let the citizens make that decision."

Morgan said she'd like the matter to go before voters in a referendum.

The current job description states that the administrative officer is responsible for assisting the chairman and Board of Commissioners with management and operation of the county; supervising administrative offices; overseeing county functions falling under the authority of the BOC; and coordinating special projects.

The board changed the job description in 2005 to state that the position should report to the board and the chair. Morgan said those broad terms have led to confusion for employees over who is in charge and individual commissioners taking up the time of the administrative officer with requests pertaining to their districts versus the county as a whole. A county manager form of government, where the county manager reports to the board and the chair is out of the loop, would only add to those troubles, she said.

Morgan said she would prefer to divide the one position into two or three, with a separate employee overseeing finances, operations and communications, but said she understands the limitations with current revenues.

"I'm fine with the position. The hierarchy needs to remain as it is or we need to go to the public. If you are elected to do a job, no one should come through the back door and use a policy decision to change the form of government. We need to ask are these changes about running a better, more efficient government, or are these changes about influence and usurping authority?" she said.

Morgan said the current form of government offers checks and balances. The chair does not have veto power but can vote in the case of a tie. The board also has power to reverse by majority vote an administrative decision made by the chair.

District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz said the administrative officer job needs to be better defined overall and agreed any government form change should go before the public. Such a measure would require approval from the Georgia General Assembly, she noted.

"I would really like to explore if our current form of government is best, given our population size. I don't think we need to do that in one work session. It takes time to really study that and have the public participate and that needs to be something that goes before the voters. That's not something that three commissioners need to have that much power to determine," Schulz said, referring to the number required for a majority vote.

Schulz said she would like to discuss the possibility of consolidation and whether the current overall county government structure, with the unincorporated county and five municipalities, is the most efficient.

"How much money is going to support government in Newton County and are we utilizing all those resources most effectively or are we duplicating functions?" she said.

The county will hold a work session on the administrative officer job description at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7, at the Newton County Historic Courthouse on the Square. The public is invited to come and listen, but public comments are typically not allowed in work sessions.

Comments

mgh1966 2 years, 9 months ago

the manger is accountable to the board who is accountable to the people. Lets get some professional help the losers we been voting on have not been effective. they send 4 men out to fix a pot hole 3 stand around and watch 1 doing the work. they do not even give the guy working any traffic control. then there will be a pot hole next to the one they filled and they leave it un filled. Thats is the day to day control we are getting now.

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Silverbullet 2 years, 9 months ago

Its all in the eyes of the beholder. Morgan/Shultz consortium on one side of the fence and (Most of) the rest of the Board on the other. Oh and you can add Denny Dobbs to that consortium as he is certainly a huge beneficiary of the Morgan/Shultz team. And you thought he was out of politics. Ha! Look at his income from county projects in recent years. Probably second only to Sunbelt Builders. And Tommy Craig. It seems that Morgan brought this on herself. She attempted to operate outside her authority, wasting the Commission's time to reel her back in. With the Administrator form of government, she will virtually be without a job come election time if she is reelected. Except for a paltry salary and some ribbon cutting duties, the Char will no longer be able to get away with past 'Morganisms'. I suppose you could interpret that three ways. The only complaint the citizens are voicing at this time is if the new position is a 'set up' to place someone's preselected crony in that position. That would bring about a lot of discontent and probable replacement of the existing Commissioners come election time. As has been stated many times in the past, the only way to do the people's business properly in the selection process is to hire an independent firm to search for candidates and turn the most qualified prospects over to the Commissioners for final selection. Anything else is a sham. And we know it.

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Frustrated 2 years, 9 months ago

it really sounds like someone is trying to save their jobs and maintain their power. the way things are run now it seems like a couple ( or three) of the commissioners rule the roost and pass what they want to pass with the "ole buddy" system. Maybe going to a different form of govt wouldnt be such a bad thing. Why not check it out and see if it would work for Newton County?

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56vick 2 years, 8 months ago

So you guys have finally figured out the Morgan,Dobbs,and Schultz connection . Wow it only took four years.If interested check on the joint property holdings .Why would you dare think of taking away the chairperson,s power .Are you trying to implode the GOOD OLE BOY SYSTEM or what ! Now if you could figure out the Mort from Ort connection.

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Gladstone2007 2 years, 8 months ago

Citizens of Newton County, we need answers!

Our BOC is holding a Work Session on Monday, November 7, 2011 at 6:00pm. The BOC is inviting no citizen input. If the following questions are not clearly answered by the end of the Work Session, then the entire evening will have been a HUGE FAILURE!!

  1. Is there any background information the BOC/Chairman wish to share with Newton citizens?
  2. What’s the position of each commissioner on this matter?
  3. How will the BOC be affected?
  4. Will this be an elected position or appointed?
  5. Will the County's legislative process change?
  6. How will re-districting be impacted?
  7. What's the projected cost of the new office and its staff?
  8. Is the position of Board Chairman to be eliminated?
  9. When was citizen input ever sought?

Yes, Newton citizens demand answers!!!

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dgarrett 2 years, 8 months ago

This issue is NOT about who you like and who you don't like. This is about a change in our county government. Put your feelings aside for a minute, if you can manage that, and think about what happens in the future. This is an appointed position. You may like the commissioners that are in office now and trust their appointment. You may not. What happens next election. The new elected officials go into office working with someone NOT elected by the people of Newton County but appointed by a group of 3 or 4 people no longer in office. This person will be free to do as pleased with no fear of losing his job or being held accountable by those that elected him/her. Is that really what we want? We haven't faired too well under the current board. Long time businesses are closing, unemployment is higher than state average, foreclosures are still happening. Are these the people you want to make the decision who runs the county for the next 3 years. Personally, I want to make that decision when I vote. That is my right as a citizen of Newton County. Stop letting feelings get in the way of this most important decision that changes everything not just for today or next year but for the foreseeable future.

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dennistay53 2 years, 8 months ago

This would be the way to go as long as it replaces the full time chairman and full time over paid county attorney jobs they have now. I would say the county mgr should have legal knowledge and set salary that is always made available to the voters.The board would be held responsible for the actions of the county mgr by the voters. Legislation should also be passed to set the term for the county commissioners at 2 years instead of 4 so they would be held more accountable.

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