09 December 2017

[TPC] - Wm Thomas Craig on pace to make upwards of half a MILLION dollars from Newton Co. this year?



[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

(Covington, GA * 9 December '17) - Greetings.

Based on our information, The Chronicles can report the following:

Wm Thomas Craig, Esquire, though fired as legal counsel for the Newton County Board of Commissioners some two years ago, is on track to make hundreds of thousands of dollars for fiscal year 2018, paid for by the taxpayers of Newton Co.

How is this possible? While the Newton BOC is no longer using Craig for legal services, the Sheriff of Newton Co., Ezell Brown, is.



Also, ever since Craig was relieved of his duties by the Board, a very concerning trend with the legal costs of the NCSO has been occurring. Take a look at these escalating legal expenses of the Newton Co. Sheriff's office:

  • $24,841 for legal services in FY (fiscal year) 2015
  • $88,078 in FY 2016
  • $280,092 in FY 2017
If that isn't bothersome enough, based on data we have in our possession, it looks as though Craig is on track to get paid approx. $400,000 in FY 2018. But if we look at the rate of appreciation of Craig's legal fees over the past three years, then that would put the amount at more like ONE MILLION DOLLARS (calculated by deriving an average rate of appreciation over the last two cycles and applying that rate to FY 2017's expenditure)!!!

Of particular concern is an invoice from Craig that shows 78.75 billable hours for an amount approaching $20,000 for a 13-day period in July of this year. I'm not even sure if that's possible.

Commentary

Jeez...good work if you can get it, huh? But seriously, this really looks bad. One might easily assume that this is the Sheriff's way of trying to help Craig financially. If you think about it, that fella has lost out on a couple million dollars worth of revenue from Newton Co over the last two years. Also, no more water consulting fees from Bear Creek, nor from some of his other projects in which he was terminated. We assume he's no longer being paid "consulting" fees from the Landfill. That's probably something to check on.

All of this begs the question - Why? What is really the "why" here? It just doesn't make sense...

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll admit that I haven't reached out to Sheriff Brown for his side of the story. I plan on doing that next week. But I felt like this really needed to be put in the public discourse now. Also, for the record, I've always liked Ezell. He seems like a nice guy & I think he's been a pretty good Sheriff. But if these legal expenses are accurate, and I believe them to be (otherwise I wouldn't have gone to press), then the Citizens of Newton Co. deserve some answers.

So long for now, until we meet again.

M.B. McCart
Public Advocate 


04 December 2017

[TPC] - Alcovy Telegraph: Odds & Ends; Miscellany + What-not



The Alcovy Telegraph


[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

(North C-town Representin' * 4 December '17) - Greetings & Salutations, Covingtonians, Newtonians & everyone else. Glad to be with you today & hope it's been a great day for you. December 4th. Three weeks exactly until Christmas. My Dad always told me that time would speed up the older I got and like many other things - he was right on the money on that one.

Another week in the books and, per usual, it had its highs & lows, but as always - it was our week, and that makes it a great week.

So, what's been happening here lately?



  • On the personal tip, I was made aware by its news editor, Jackie Guknecht, that the Covington News had made a decision "to end the relationship" with Yours Truly. Yeah, I know, so sad. Poor ole Marshall...But seriously, as I've mentioned to a few folks over the years, it'd always been a dream for me to write for that publication ever since I was a pretty young fella. I had the opportunity to do that for almost two years, and it was pretty great. Besides, if I'm being honest here, it just wasn't the same after Mrs. GM left (and after they did away with the funny papers) and really - my heart just wasn't in it anymore. If I was going to do it, I would want to do it like I'd been doing it: regular weekly columns with my monthly Esoteric South pieces. There were budgetary issues involved, and the news business it pretty dang tough these days. I harbor no ill feelings towards The News or any of its employees, management or ownership. And I appreciate the folks who've let me know how much they missed my stuff. 
    • In light of these recent developments I actually considered the idea of going to the dark side - The Newton Citizen, but I just couldn't envision that. 
    • I've had some discussions with a few folks about the possibility of a print edition of The Chronicles. And that is something I'm considering. I've talked to a few folks who would like to be involved and have even had some discussions with a couple of possible investors. If I was going to do it - it'd have to be 110%, totally legit & properly capitalized. At least two editions per week & and an actual office/HQ to meet the requirements to become the legal organ of Newton Co. Once we had that type of revenue, we could really maybe accomplish some things. I think my chances of getting the vote of the three county Constitutional officers needed is a possible one. 
    • But then again, why would anybody want to get into the "real" news business. Lots of overhead; printing costs are outrageous. Perhaps spending a little more w/ my little online version and trying to incorporate some local advertising to complement my Google ads might be the way to go. IDK. Send out a smoke signal or slide me an email to give me your thoughts...
  • The Rec Commission. What a weird situation. Seems like a lot of folks are in scaredy cat/walking-on-egg shells mode. I actually had people reaching out to me after they found out I was working on covering this story to tell me, in one case, "tread lightly...you need to be careful with this one." Dafuq? Well, that's never stopped me before and it sure as hell wasn't going to this time. Truth be told, I've kind of secretly been hoping for someone to sue me for as long as I can remember. I'd raise a defense fund. I'd represent myself, naturally, and bring in some co-counsel and some consults. I just think it'd be exciting. But as I always strive to do, I think I word things and present my information in a way to avoid finding myself in an actionable position. 
    • So...anybody know what's going on with that? I finally heard back from the Newton Co. HR director with a whole bunch of nothing. 
    • I just don't get it...
  • I greatly enjoyed Larry McSwain's well-written letter to the editor of The Citizen talking about the lack of action taken on last year's $300,000 audit that showed major problems and issues. He's absolutely right. This current edition of the Newton Co. BOC is almost a full year in. I understand and appreciate that the previous edition of the Board left things in battered tatters and there were immediate things that had to be addressed by the current group, but I'm starting to get this all-too-familiar feeling that things are not going as they should. I'm willing to give this crew another three months or so; however, if they're not able to start getting some serious things done then I'm of the opinion that'll be time to turn on 'em like we did the last time. All I can really see right now is that we've swapped one million dollar county attorney for another.
  • Tomorrow I'm hopefully having at least two meetings/interviews on the JDA of the four counties. I hope to have my 1st installment of my investigative report on Stanton Springs by Wednesday. So keep an eye out for that. And, if all goes well, look for something on the Hospital Authority next week.
Okay for now, friends. Lord willin' & if the Creek don't rise, we'll see you next time.

- MBM