(Covington, GA * 12/31/17)
A lot going on this New Year's Eve. Let's get right to it.
So the most recent Letter to the Editor over at the Citizen was penned by Archie Shepherd and is a response to a previous letter tendered by Larry McSwain & Barbara Morgan, two fellow community advocates that I hold in very high regard, in which they questioned the escalating legal expenditures being paid to Wm Thomas Craig, Esq. (WTC) by the Newton County Sheriff's Office (NCSO). As you may remember, this publication wrote about this very issue almost a month ago.
I have a few issues with Mr. Shepherd's letter. First off, no real facts seem to be given; rather, it is made clear that Shepherd just had a conversation with Sheriff Brown and simply regurgitated the information given. His argument that how the monies paid for legal expenses by the Sheriff used to come out of the "same pot" when WTC was county attorney doesn't appear to hold water. Based on the facts - county records - legal expenses for the Sheriff was always a separate line item. See graphic below:
As you can see, money was being paid directly from the NCSO to WTC prior to his termination from the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC), as, as we understand it, it always had. So if the assumption of Shepherd, and apparently confirmed by Sheriff Brown, is correct, then that would mean that WTC was over-billing the BOC for legal expenditures that should have been delineated and separated out for a Constitutional Officer. If that is indeed the case, then one would have to wonder if WTC was guilty of an offense that can cause reprimands or surrender of license by the Georgia Bar. Interesting...
With all of that said, it is our understanding that there was a major legal situation with the NCSO related to the death of an inmate at the county detention center. Certainly that would cause an increase in legal expenditures; however, there have been many legal situations for the NCSO over the years. Are we correct in assuming that the BOC was improperly paying for this?
Sheriff Brown shouldn't have it both ways. He can't puff his chest about how he's a Constitutional Officer with sole oversight and discretion on his legal spending now, if - as Shepherd's accounting of their conversation seems to imply - he was utilizing legal expenses on the BOC's dime before.
And finally, this entire situation seems similar to the Rec. Department Director's situation. It seems as if a certain card is being played and an implying of motives being at the core of both of issues.
Well, frankly, that's bullshit. It's the old divide & conquer strategy we've seen here for the last several years. It's not going work anymore.
Thanks for reading & I hope 2018 is the best year yet for all of us!
P.S. - One of my New Year Resolutions is putting the Newton Co. Hospital Authority back on the top of the to do list. Look for an expansive piece on this in early January.
P.P.S. - GO DAWGS!!!