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Posted: August 27, 2014 6:47 p.m.

County cuts Henderson pay advance

Ellis said there was a short time for decision

Newton County Commissioner J.C. Henderson was issued a paycheck advance of $4,500 on Aug. 15. He paid everything back by Aug. 25.

On Wednesday, Henderson called it a “county advance loan” on his paycheck as commissioner, to help pay his son Anthony Henderson’s college tuition on extremely short notice.

Commissioner Levie Maddox isn’t happy with it.

“The last board addressed this issue and I believe discontinued the practice; I have asked for clarity from the professionals staff on what specifically happened and how to better checks & balance measures moving forward,” Maddox wrote in an email Tuesday. “In addition, I do believe that the county should have a policy that allows structured cash advances to employees under a documented hardship. Any and all types of loan scenarios are unacceptable.”

Commissioner John Douglas said “there’s something to it,” but wouldn’t elaborate. He referred all questions to Commission Chairman Keith Ellis.

Ellis said the loan was a last-minute attempt to help Henderson’s son attend college.

“It was a short period of time to make a decision. His grant in aid was not available as they had planned for Tuskegee University,” Ellis said. “I tried to contact the county manager, was not able to reach him, we had a couple hours to make the decision. It was short-term loan. I did talk with the county attorney about payroll. I checked; it had been done before on multiple occasions and it’s all been paid back.”

Ellis said no other commissioner was involved, nor did they have “any knowledge or notice of the requested salary advance until after the advance had already been made. I deeply regret and apologize for the embarrassment this matter has caused them.”

Commissioner Nancy Schulz said in an email that she was informed Aug. 15 by a voter that Henderson received the cash advance, and she issued a “call to action” to the commissioners Aug. 19. In that call to action, she wrote that the she hoped the money had been returned to the county general fund (it was by Aug. 25, she said).
Also, she wrote that “it is imperative that the (BOC) take corrective action this evening … to prevent any further incidences of compromising the trust of our constituents who have entrusted us with the fiduciary responsibility of using their tax dollars wisely and putting at risk attracting jobs and industry by showing favoritism to elected officials.”

Maddox said: “Elected officials should serve the public — period. I need to get the facts in front of me, but this does not seem to pass the smell test.”

Commissioners are paid $15,000, with a 5 percent increase allotted after completing training and each additional re-election. Commissioners are not considered county employees.

They “should be held to a higher ethical standard,” Maddox said. “I’d also add that Commissioner Henderson is a good man, trying (with the loan) to put his kids through school and college. We can all relate to this. It is not his burden that mistakes were made in his request for a cash advance.”

Ellis said the timing was key: “I had only two hours within which to decide what to do and I believed a young man’s future hung in the balance. Apparently, tuition financial aid promised to Commissioner Henderson’s son for playing basketball did not come through after the coach who extended the offer left Tuskegee University unexpectedly.

“I received the request for a $4,500 salary advance the day classes were to begin. The family had tried without success, on very short notice, to secure a loan from other sources,” he said. “The payroll department confirmed salary advances had been made to both employees and commissioners in the past. The county clerk searched records and found no board policy to prohibit salary advances. Finally, I contacted the county attorney’s office and asked if there were any legal problems with approving a payroll deduction to repay a loan.

“The attorney thought I was talking about a private loan rather than a county loan, and indicated there was no legal problem using the payroll deduction method to repay a private loan. I then made my decision with my heart rather than my head.

“The bottom line is a kid is in college and the loan has been repaid.”

Similar loans have indeed been made in the past. In October 2011, $300 was issued to Jimmy Aikens of the Public Works Department, according to an open records request made by the Covington News. Similarly, Carlton Patterson of the same department received a $250 advance in June 2010. Still other employees received paycheck advances in earlier years; Henderson himself received $1,000 in October 2007.

The plan was for Henderson to pay back the most recent loan in monthly allocations of $86.54 beginning Aug. 29, but he promised in writing – and delivered on that promised – to pay it back early if possible.

“It was paid back last week,” Henderson said.

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summertime: August 27, 2014 5:09 p.m.

Well doesn"t this beat all . Could the rest of the county employees get a loan also. Did anyone check to see if his son was registered in any school or even had an application out . Ok Tommy Craig earn your pay find out if a federal law has been violated.Someone call the whistle blowers hot line !

summertime: August 27, 2014 5:13 p.m.

Anyone need a vote ! Cheap.

chkenhwk: August 27, 2014 9:10 p.m.

The question that should be asked is who authorized the loan? I do believe that the previous commission ended the practice of advances. The fact that Keith Ellis wouldn't return the paper's phone call seems a little suspicious. Someone needs to answer for this clear violation of the counties laws.

dct1953: August 28, 2014 12:11 a.m.

God what a joke this BOC is and it all starts with the chairman.

henrystamm: August 28, 2014 7:36 a.m.

More proof of the corrupt and wasteful Newton County Administration. Using the position as a piggy bank is insulting to us hard working Taxpayers. Lets get rid of them at the next election. Period.

dct1953: August 28, 2014 7:59 a.m.

Section 3-205 Duties
Should the Chairman fail to exercise any of his duties provided for by law, then a member of the Board, at the
next regular meeting, may bring an accusation against such chairman in writing and outlining the duties which such
chairman has failed to exercise, and order said chairman to show cause why such duties have not been exercised.
Such accusation shall be entered in the minutes of the meeting. The chairman shall then be afforded an opportunity
to respond to such charges and show cause why such duties have not been exercised, if in fact such duties were not
exercised. Such response shall also be entered in the minutes of the meeting. If, after such accusation, response and
further discussion, a majority of the Board, excluding the Chairman, feels that it is necessary for the welfare of the
county to compel such Chairman to exercise such duties, the Board may exercise the duty themselves or may make
a written request to the Judge of the Superior Court of Newton County to issue a writ of mandamus commanding the
Chairman to exercise such duties. (Ga.L. 1967, p. 2784, as amended by Ga.L. 1972, p. 3479, Ga.L. 1976, p. 3032

mgh1966: August 28, 2014 9:59 a.m.

Tip of the Ice berg. Keep digging there is more there.

summertime: August 28, 2014 10:52 a.m.

So Henderson's income is $15000 a year and he borrows 4500 to be paid back interest free at $50 a payday ! If it had not been discovered he would have been paying for approximately four years . Wow I need a loan too .Good job chairman and board . you give us all a warm fuzzy feeling knowing you are looking after us .

Frustrated: August 28, 2014 3:32 p.m.

Guess Henderson thinks since he tries to get everything else he wants might as well take money from the county out right. And they elected him for another term? SHEEESH

armchairjl: August 28, 2014 4:01 p.m.

There needs to be a grand jury investigation. So this is how business is done? A commissioner calls the chairman and asks for a loan from the county? And the chairman says "we had couple of hours - WHO is the WE to make the decision???? He and county attorney? He and the commissioner asking for loan? HOURS??? SERIOUSLY??? Henderson must be a mighty important commissioner to curry such quick favor. There has to be more to this story??? Smacks of back room deals and good ole boy politics and a cover up? We deserve the T.R.U.T.H. How did Henderson miraculously come up with $4500 to pay back if he couldn't come up with it to begin with???? There has to be an investigation. They always say follow the money and in this case possibly votes?


DustinKetchem: August 28, 2014 4:15 p.m.

Is everyone else in Newton County just catching up to what everyone on the left already knew. This guy is corrupt.. always has been.. and he puts others in a position to become corrupt. The "lay down with dogs wake up with fleas" concept.. Ellis now has fleas.

Never mind this.. what about the Nelson Heights Community Center and the kickbacks he is receiving off of that?

What does this guy make a living doing anyway? Does he even have a job? I know he doesn't survive off of $15,000 a year.

Allegations of domestic abuse, corruption, political kickbacks, and all kinds of other issues have plagued Mr. Henderson's tenure as a County Commissioner. He is a pawn. He shouldn't have ever been elected, and the fact that he has managed to be re-elected so may times (including this year) is mind blowing.. but then again, just take a look at DeKalb or Clayton county and how the voters there elect corrupt officials, fully knowing and accepting of their corruption.

Newton County is doomed if the leadership and the voters continue to act like this. Levie Maddox, Nancy Schulz, and Lanier Sims are the only people with any credibility on the commission. They listen to their constituents, they do their jobs to the best of their ability, and nobody can question their loyalty to the County. John Douglas is just a politician and Ill leave it at that.

DustinKetchem: August 28, 2014 4:18 p.m.

If you sick the Grand Jury on Henderson you are going to find a lot more dirt than you can dig. This guys corruption is deep.. and the people who are involved with him will do whatever it takes to protect him.

summertime: August 28, 2014 5:34 p.m.

If I made a cool million off the back of the tax payers I bet I could help out one of the fellows who votes for my contract .Someone please call for the GBI and FBI and have them check into the workings of our puzzle palace .

dct1953: August 28, 2014 5:40 p.m.

Dustin Ketchem I am one on the right but if you have followed my comments you will see that I have probably been this chairman's loudest critic. Yes there have been deep coverups on the BOC. As far as the 3 commissioners you mentioned- the ball is in their laps. They have the power to ask for a grand jury investigation. Bet they don't. If they do nothing to clean up this problem then they are part of the problem as well. If you remember Mort and crew put the Grand Jury on Chairman Morgan on the roadwork deal in 2012.

armchairjl: August 28, 2014 9:30 p.m.

This corruption appears to run deep with far reaching tentacles. The investigation must be of the entire board and county attorney. The political posturing is nauseating on both sides and irrelevant. The excuses are meaningless.

I would think it takes at least two or most likely several more persons to be involved in the corruption and the cover up.

I agree 100% with bringing in outside state and federal agencies to investigate this situation from top to bottom and NO ONE should have a problem IF innocent. They should WELCOME them with open arms to clear the smear they have created.

There has to be a paper trail somewhere and/or direct individual questioning to uncover these dirty deals. We look WORSE than Clayton and Dekalb Counties. They have been exposed and are taking action to clean up - we are NOT.

You have to start somewhere and some time in cleaning up a mess. It's here and now with this disgrace.

armchairjl: August 28, 2014 9:39 p.m.

Anyone done any digging on who votes with who? Particularly Henderson? Who does he favor??? Does it matter??? Politicians are notorious for selling out. Some might consider it payback? Inquirying minds want to know

dct1953: August 28, 2014 10:16 p.m.

Henderson votes with Douglas. He and Douglas were the only two to vote to kill the 2050 Plan. Before this when a couple of us asked how he was going to vote on the 2050 Plan he stated he was going to take his lead from Douglas. He has voted with the Republicans for a long time. He was the swing vote going with Mort and Tim Fleming in the change of form of Government. Don't know what this means if anything just stating how he usually votes. Of course on the budget he voted with the Democrats with Douglas the only one voting against the tax increase. Maybe someone needs to get this to FOX 5? They have investigative reporters.

armchairjl: August 28, 2014 11:34 p.m.

This may be significant. If there are any back room deals leading to voting influence (particularly if it involves money like this $4500 boondoggle) - needs to be brought to light. Could it be possible middleman to do dirty work? Either way still makes a politician receiving benefit guilty in my book. The layers need to be peeled back and we need to get to the core of the problem.
I suspect there could be BIG story here and it is critical investigative reporting along with outside agencies investigating each and everyone of them immediately. We all need to get on the phone or email FOX 5, to delve into this situation along with feds. Im watching other media outlets and statements and blather from sidelines which appear IMHO to be nothing more than put the fire out before it takes down the house. They all need to be smoked out and get this place cleaned up.

From what I can gather the money was paid back to the county anonymously and could have facts wrong but recall reading a check? If regular check or cashiers check should be traceable. At this point the STORY COULD BECOME MUCH LARGER? Actually paying $4500 could be cheap way to attempt to end an ugly situation? HOWEVER, COULD HENDERSON BE INDEBTED AGAIN to someone who may or may not be involved with the county? Could it be another commissioner? Who would anonymously pay back Henderson's loan and why? Many many questions unanswered and suspect county will be working hard to put this behind them and thus the cycle continues.

dct1953: August 28, 2014 11:59 p.m.

I sent an email to Fox 5. We will see if they show any interest. Maybe more need to do the same. We need a full investigation to clear everything up I agree. If no one has done nothing wrong they shouldn't mind.

summertime: August 29, 2014 7:29 a.m.

I think the coverup will cost the tax payers much more than the $4500 that was (loaned to the honorable commissioner by the honorable Chairman ) . If we have the extra money maybe we could hire the city to teach the county how to run a citizen serving business !

armchairjl: August 29, 2014 8:27 a.m.

Agree and have done same. Sent several emails. Dale Russell: Something fishy in explanation???? Need to know what really happened in loan origination, and running for cover PLEADING IGNORANCE??? Some voter was whistle blower and WHO DID WHAT THEN? Don't run and hide under I didn't know. Typical politicians cya. WHO REPAID AND WHY. WHO OWES WHO??? DID HENDERSON GET $4500 GIFT???? Got loan from county and now who does he owe??? Or does he owe??? Independent investigation much needed.

dct1953: August 29, 2014 11:44 a.m.

ORR has been requested from the county showing all money paid to each and every commissioner including the chairman (including expenses) starting with all the last fiscal year and up to now in the new fiscal year. We will see where this goes. Other ORR's will be requested in the next few days asking for where each and every dollars from budget line items BOC and Appr were paid to.

HairyDawg: August 29, 2014 12:56 p.m.

Well after all Henderson did publicly state about the third or fourth month of Ellis's first year"Chairman Ellis is the best Chairman we have had since I have been here" right before he was given back his "playhouse " at Nelson Heights a 5-0 vote by the way. Now we see why he is the best!! See Ellis what goes around comes around in life!! You let that ego get in the way not your heart!!

armchairjl: August 29, 2014 1:10 p.m.

That would rule out any other county funds and good. Could it be Henderson repayment private and under the table? They all are public figures and there has to be a way to track down the repayment. Confused with his statements regarding attorney and repayment with private loans? Irked with statement from Ellis holding Henderson up that he delivered on his promise to pay back early. THEY GOT CAUGHT! AND SOME ANONYMOUS BENEFACTOR COMES ALONG TO BAIL OUT TO PUT FIRE OUT? Read carefully how Ellis appears to be protecting everyone INCLUDING Henderson. Something very rotten??? Makes one wonder what their really trying to put out...

henrystamm: September 2, 2014 7:54 a.m.

* love the success of this article. Newton Citizen are actually reading this paper. What I find surprising is that Henderson and his dimwits have not enforced and/or promoted the race card. Is there hope in the black community to be part of the USA?

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