Newton County denies Durden's allegations

COVINGTON — Allegations of wrongful termination by Newton County’s former lawn care contractor, Billy Durden, have been denied.

County Attorney Tommy Craig is representing the Board of Commissioners in the lawsuit, but Durden’s attorney, John Strauss, said it’s necessary to address the issue of whether Craig’s office should be officially representing the county in the case.

Strauss said the next stage in the lawsuit would involve a “discovery” period.

The lawsuit claims there was “no cause in termination” and the county failed to provide 90 days notice of termination to Durden.

County commissioners renewed Durden’s contract on Feb. 5, 2013, with a 3-2 vote, locking in the county’s lawn care costs of about $98,000 for five years. County Manager John Middleton noted during that meeting that Durden needed to renew his business license. It was later discovered that Durden was operating without a valid license and had operated without a license from 2002 to 2006.

Middleton sent a contract termination later dated March 13, 2013, about a month after county commissioners voted to renew his contract. The letter stated the contract with Durden had been “terminated for cause and will not be renewed.”

The Board of Commissioners met for a special called meeting on Feb. 26, 2013 and voted unanimously not to renew the the agreement since Durden’s Lawn Service did not renew its Newton County business license before it expired in 2012 and it was not an isolated occurrence.