By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Project ReNeWal talks to DA
Placeholder Image

Representatives from Newton County and a domestic violence victim's assistance program met last week for the first time since the program threatened to file litigation against the county for a portion of funds collected for victim assistance.

Project ReNeWal, serving Rockdale, Newton and Walton counties, alleged the county was not distributing its share of the funds from the "5 percent fees" collected from court fines for victim assistance programs approved by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

 Currently, the fees go to the Victim Witness Assistance Program at the District Attorney's Office, a CJCC approved program, with donations from the DA's Office to Project ReNeWal.

 Attorney Derek Bauer, representing Project ReNeWal, sent the Board of Commissioners, Newton County Attorney Tommy Craig and Alcovy Circuit District Attorney Ken Wynne a letter on April 1 with a draft of a "writ of mandamus," or a legal filing that would require public officials to do their duty. Though the program did not receive a response from the county by the April 11 deadline, the writ of mandamus was not filed.

 Bauer, Craig and Wynne met with Executive Director of Project ReNeWal Vickie Stevenson as well as the program's board chairman William Campbell for approximately an hour to discuss the issue on May 13.

 "It seems we all agree that a public court battle is not the best way to ensure that the ultimate beneficiaries of the 5 percent fees - victims of domestic violence and other crimes - get what they need," Campbell said, in a released statement.

 The two sides didn't come to any resolution, according to Wynne and Stevenson, but understood the other's position and were able to explain what the program did.

 "At least we've sat down and talked with them. That was a step. Hopefully they understand the importance of the work that we do, and of course we understand the importance of work that Mr. Wynne's office does," said Stevenson.

 "We left it at that we would speak again concerning this issue," said Wynne. He reiterated Project ReNeWal was not entitled to the funds and the DA's Victim Witness Assistance Program was the only program obligated to receive the funds to provide required services, according to state statutes.

 "That is the source of funds we have to do what we're required to do and we can't function without that money," said Wynne. "We can't raise funds, we can't solicit corporate grants. That is the money we have to provide victim services as required by law."

"The county has to decide too if it's going to use public funds to give to a Rockdale county private corporation or are they going to use those funds in Newton County."

Project ReNeWal had yet to meet with Walton County, said Stevenson.