Serious concerns about the leasing of county owned property to a Newton County Commissioner's corporation for ten years with ZERO rent
The Piedmont Chronicles
[State of GA]
(Covington, GA | 11/15/18) -
*edited & updated, 9:24AM, 11/15/18
On August 1st, 2017, the Newton County Board of Commissioners, as lessor/landlord , did enter into a 10-year lease agreement with Nelson Heights Community Services, Inc., as lessee/tenant, to convey a leasehold estate for the county owned property located at 7200 Laseter St SW, Covington, GA, also known as the Nelson Heights Community Center, for the following rent, as stated in the lease:
In lieu of rent, Lessee shall deliver consideration to Lessor by providing community services to all eligible citizens of Newton County.
So, to recap, a ten year lease of a county owned property with not a single penny being paid in rent.
First off, this lease seems to have some validity requirement issues in that there is not any valuable consideration involved. Not even a $10 & love & affection or anything.
One has to wonder if this lease is even valid.
Regardless, this lease was indeed executed, hands & seals set & affixed, on August 1st of last year by the following parties:
- Marcello Banes, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Newton Co., as lessor
- J.C. Henderson, Chairmain of Nelson Heights Community Services, Inc., as lessee
The lease was apparently prepared by County Attorney Megan Martin & was attested, witnessed & notarized.
It seems concerning that the county would enter into this lease just 8 months after it was revealed in the 2016 forensic audit that there were major, major concerns with Nelson Heights.
From the TPC write-up of November 29,
[There were] major concerns in the report with the running of the Nelson Heights center. Concerns of mismanagement, improper accounting practices, questionable expenditures, etc. In his report, Sawyers believes that financial damages to the county in the amount of approx. $43,000 occurred because of this.
Earlier this year, after questions were raised about possible conflicts of interest at Nelson Heights & whether or not JC Henderson should recuse himself from being able to vote on the Newton County budget, a change was purportedly made with the regards to the Nelson Heights Board of Directors. Anthony Henderson, JC's son who is also a county employee as well as a city of Covington Councilman, was made the new CEO of the Nelson Heights Board of Directors based on a report of the secretary's minutes that was given to the publication by a source which showed that the three members of this board - JC Henderson, Sandy Henderson & Anthony Henderson, all immediate family members - voted to make this change.
Questions have also been recently raised about the the proper accounting of monies currently with Nelson Heights. In addition to being funded out of Newton Co.'s regular M & O budget, Nelson Heights also allows people to rent out their facilities for parties & other events for a fee. Multiple attempts have been made from others to get this information, but so far to no avail. And there are other concerns as well. There's a county vehicle for Nelson Heights that some have alleged that both JC & Anthony use as a personal vehicle. I've seen them both driving it a pretty good bit myself.
There certainly seem to be a lot of questions with this situation.
I plan on reaching out to Chairman Banes, JC Henderson, County Attorney Martin & others in the next week or so & will definitely file a second report on this story.
Thank you for reading.
- MB McCart
*incorrect date for previous TPC article was edited.