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Douglas pins pay raise on fellow commissioners

COVINGTON — Commissioner John Douglas said he would bring up the pending salary increase for commissioners Tuesday night, making a motion that would require them to vote on a pay raise versus it being automatically tied to the sheriff’s salary, which increases once certain population thresholds are reached.

Instead, he made a motion to indefinitely postpone the matter, which was approved unanimously by the board. Commissioner Nancy Schulz was absent. After the meeting, Douglas issued a statement to the media, reading in part: “I have tried repeatedly both in public and behind the scenes to stop the ill-advised and unnecessary pay raise, but to no avail. In spite of my best efforts and reasons, there was no support among the other commissioners to halt this backdoor hike. While this is not a large increase, the principle stands tall that we should NOT get ANY pay raise while our employees have suffered five years with no pay raises and numerous furlough days and we all continue to endure a never ending recession.”

In a follow-up interview, Douglas said he talked with his fellow commissioners “and it was clear from the information that came out that they all had plans on how to use their pay raises.” Douglas said while some commissioners planned to donate their raises to the general fund, it would be simpler not to have the raises at all.

Commissioners Lanier Sims, Nancy Schulz and J.C. Henderson said they have not spoken with Douglas about the issue. Douglas later clarified that he spoke only with Commissioner Levie Maddox and Chairman Keith Ellis.

“I was told through a third party none of the others would support stopping the pay raise and none approached me to support my efforts,” Douglas said.

Maddox could not be reached for comment.

It’s not yet clear whether Ellis would also get a raise, but he said if he does, he will not accept it. Sims and Schulz said they will donate their pay increase to the general fund, while Henderson said he will accept his due to the cost of gas for his personal vehicle that he uses on county business.

Sims previously told the Citizen that he agrees with the current system, approved by the 2001 Board of Commissioners, tying their pay to the sheriff’s salary. Sims said he agrees with Douglas’ comments about county employees and agrees commissioners shouldn’t accept the raise, but he wants pay to be tied to the sheriff’s salary to prevent commissioners from controlling their own salaries.

“I don’t agree with all this grandstanding on this one topic, and I really believe we should be focused on our strategic planning. How are we going to get this county on track so we can get this (millage rate) down to what it was? I don’t believe these efforts help us in any way in working together to achieve those goals,” he said.

Schulz reiterated that she would not accept a pay raise until county employees have all furlough days restored, and she’s kept her commitment to engage in strategic planning to reduce the millage rate within two years.

“I don’t appreciate playing politics with this. This is a situation where all of us have agreed; the public is very clear on our intent. John is trying to drive a wedge down there because I’ve made it very clear what I intend to do with my increase,” she said.

Henderson said commissioners’ raises will not have nearly the impact of the constitutional officers’ pay increases. “I like John. He’s a good friend. He hasn’t said nothing to me about it,” Henderson said.

Douglas, who made the motion to indefinitely postpone the pay raise discussion, said of the commissioners who approved his motion, “the three other commissioners present Tuesday night voted not to take any action on the raise thereby giving it a backdoor green light.”

Douglas said he would donate his pay increase to his church.

In April, DCA published updated Census numbers for Newton, putting its population at 101,505 and pushing it into another population bracket. That triggered an automatic pay increase for constitutional officers. Commissioners’ salaries are set at 20 percent of the sheriff’s base salary. Since the sheriff’s salary will be increasing, that means an automatic salary increase for commissioners. A press release issued recently by the chairman’s office stated the increase would be $42.87 per month, or about $514 more per year.

It’s not yet clear when the pay raise will be effective.

The Citizen is gathering information on constitutional officers’ pay increase and will publish a story in a future edition.

Comments

dennistay53 8 months, 1 week ago

By law- if they go by law- this raise can't take place until after the next election when the new board takes office. Which would be Jan 1 2015.

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bsktnbear 8 months, 1 week ago

I'm sure all the county employees would like their pay raises subject to a percentage of the sheriff's pay raise.....or the county commissioners pay raise.....or some other bogus amount. NO ONE IN THE COUNTY SHOULD GET A PAY RAISE UNTIL THE NEWTON COUNTY FIRE SERVICE AND SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES GET THEIR PAY RAISES! I'll be taking down the names of the commissioners who are accepting their pay raises by doing nothing (even if they will give theirs to their church...how you spend it doesn't matter to me). I'll be voting for Douglas next time, if possible.

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termlimits 8 months, 1 week ago

The raises are ill-timed indeed but commisioners have stated what they will do with their raises and why they feel the way they do. If you disagree with the final action then there will be an election cycle to demonstrate your view. Time to move on.

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HonestAbe 8 months, 1 week ago

Thank god we have John Douglas on the commission or we would never have known that they were getting this raise.

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Frustrated 8 months, 1 week ago

No matter HOW the raises came about, it is ill timed and shows NO respect for the voters and taxpayers of the county not to mention what it says to the employees. How can you in good conscience accept a raise when you just asked, no TOLD us that you are raising our taxes and denied county employees raises for another year? I thank the Commissioners that are not putting the money in their pockets but unless that money goes back into the county general budget it sends the same message.

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56vick 8 months, 1 week ago

So now John is a real hero .What a dog and pony show . He never did anything in state Government and now he's continuing on business as usual . Good job John LOL

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HonestAbe 8 months, 1 week ago

I posted two other comments that were not posted here. For what reason I don't know because they were clean posting's and opinion. Driving a wedge? Grandstanding? Is this what it is called when a commissioner cares enough about workers and taxpayers of this county that he tries to stop his own raise? There was not going to be a 2nd on his motion. Without a 2nd you get no vote on the BOC. Driving a wedge and grandstanding if there is any was self inflected by the ones who have voted to raise tax and refused to stop a raise for themselves.

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mansfield 8 months, 1 week ago

This is a dog and pony show, most commissioners will not hold the line on taxes and will not hold the line on pay raises. What will be next next?

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Citizen19 8 months, 1 week ago

Some how Douglas is now viewed as a Saint. He claims he is a conservative Rep and does not want to increase any tax. He uses this raise as a scape goat he voted for both the loans for the DAM and WASTE WATER TREATMENT this is increasing county debt. The same thing he claims hes against!

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horseinaround 8 months, 1 week ago

John Douglas is a narcissist. The world revolves around him. No other explanation for making the motion and then blaming everyone else. Its like professing to be a vegetarian and then ordering steak. It is all for attention. How about getting something done and quit grandstanding.

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dennistay53 8 months, 1 week ago

Let's see, Douglas the only one who voted against the millage increase and the one who brought the raises up and tried to stop them. The other 4 were for both these taxing and spending measures. Chairman you never really know where he's at. If you can't see that Douglas is the one trying to fix the taxing, spending problem we have in this county then you deserve what you are getting and have no room to complain when your tax goes up. Just sit back and watch the next shoe drop which will be the $750,000 road to nowhere or the borrowing to start the courthouse expansion ( violation of SPLOST promises). I choose to stick with the only one that gives a hoot about lowering the highest tax in the state of Ga which we are.

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Citizen19 8 months, 1 week ago

@Dennistay Douglass has said yes to taking loans out. He voted to accept the $21 million loan to Bear Creek which cost $61 million to construct where is the other $40 gonna come from? He also voted for the Waste Water Loan $7.5 milliion. That seems to me an increase in spending!!!! Your right about what was suppose to be funded by SPLOST has turned into a joke. What about the $7.5 million for hospitial, where is our Civic Center and Cow Place? We need to REPEAL SPLOST!!!

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dennistay53 8 months, 1 week ago

Yes SPLOST has been turned into a joke. I have been around for a while and know that when it was first brought on it was for a good cause. It was supposed to lessen the load on property owners. It was supposed to be used for 1 needed project at a time like building a jail, landfill etc so this wouldn't fall on property owners all at once. Once the project was paid for tax was to stop. Now it has been turned from a temporary tax that lessen the burden on property owners to a permanent tax with pork projects that add to the burden of property owners. Why? Because voters keep believing them and vote it in. It either needs to be repealed or revamped to where it can only be used as it was meant for when it first came out.

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Elizabeth_Allen 8 months, 1 week ago

Here is the bottom line, RAISING taxes upon the citizens & continuing with the current furlough days and denying of raises for county employees - one week, and then in the next breath not doing anything about getting an automatic raise for those who carried out above actions, just the week before, is bad business and pretty much stupid! If it were not for John Douglas shining a light upon this - would anyone have really known anything about pay raises for the BOC? I thank him for bringing attention to this.

It seems those who are supposed to be public SERVANTS, have forgotten this and think those who work for the county and pay taxes to the county serves the BOC! It's time we the people - county employees and citizens remind them of this every day and especially at the next election cycle if they don't realize this between now and then.

With that said, I'm glad a majority of the BOC said they will donate these funds back to the general fund or their church.

As far as, "Maddox could not be reached for comment" - anyone surprised by this? I'm not - he's my BOC rep and this seems to be pretty much par for the course when it comes to BOC 5 Maddox! Seems he takes as much time to answer the paper's request as he does in keeping up w/his property taxes (in Porterdale and Newton County) - not much of a priority for him, apparently!

It's just time to really evaluate the way business is being done within the county, as well as the way it has been done in the county in the past. It's time to get those who seem to really want to change the way of doing business (John Douglas, Keith Ellis, Nancy Schulz, and Lanier Sims) and head in that direction - the other two can either get on board or sit back and get voted out of office when their reelection comes up again! It appears the four above understand our county government is NOT on the right track (and has not been in a long time) - change can be bad but if done right, can be good. I'm optimistic, if the above four will come together and make the necessary changes to get Newton in the right direction and clear the smoke out of the back rooms and put all deals under the spotlight of the public then the millage rate should have no problems in being lowered in 2 years, as well as taking care of the county employees that have taken the hits during this horrid economy. Instead of hitting the employees hard, our BOC's in the past should have tackled the deals that were NOT taxpayer friendly first before hitting the pocketbooks of our county employees. IF the above 4 mentioned will bring the necessary transparency to truly change the way business runs in Newton County and can leave shady back room deals in the past - where they belong, then our taxes could be lowered, businesses could return to the county and those who have gotten paid through bad contracts and other inefficient wastes of the taxpayer dollar will no longer profit while we the taxpayers & county employees get taken to the shed!

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dennistay53 8 months, 1 week ago

I have been to many BOC meetings this year and spoken at most of them. This is a list of what I know John Douglas has tried to do for taxpayers with no support from the other commissioners. 1. Against the millage rate increase. He also made a motion to hold millage at 10.91 but it died from lack of a 2nd. He was the only commissioner to vote against the tax increase. 2. He asked for a freeze on county hiring but this didn't get a 2nd. 3. He asked that all budgets be gone through individually (audited) to cut waste and duplication. So far this hasn't been done. 4. He asked that county cars policy be looked at to stop certain county employees from wasting tax dollars driving county vehilces home, even out of county. The other commissioners voted him down. 5. Now he asked for a vote to stop this commissioner pay increase and the other commissioners were not going to give him a 2nd.

These are just a few of the things I know he has done to help taxpayers in Newton County. Now tell me what these other 4 who are hollering grandstanding and driving wedges have done to help taxpayers during this time?

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