The 11Alive report from “The Investigators” on Newton County Attorney Tommy Craig, and the pay he received in 2014, brought a lot of attention to the Board of Commissioners this week, a lot of which was negative from the talk around the county and social media responses.
While residents weighed in with questions, we gave commissioners, who unanimously reappointed Craig two meetings ago, the chance to share their answers.
Of the commissioners and the chairman who responded, a majority showed support for Craig.
“The Craig Law Office performs duties tasked to it by the Chairman, the BOC, Constitutional (four-year elected) officials and other departments in an exemplary fashion,” said Chairmen Levie Maddox and John Douglas in a letter to The News (see below). “Mr. Craig’s’ knowledge and skill are among the very best and are always professionally applied to the best interests of the county.”
The fact that Craig’s firm brought in more than a million dollars from Newton County in the 2014 calendar year also didn’t deter District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson.
“I believe whatever it is the money he is making is worth it,” Henderson said.
One commissioner expressed concern on the amount of money spent to one firm.
“It is unacceptable to continue to do business as usual. We have created a culture that fosters high legal fees,” said Schulz in an email to her constituents and The News (see below). “If we do not make structural changes to the way in which we utilize the County Attorney’s office, then we will continue to have high legal costs regardless of who is in the role of County Attorney.”
Schulz said that during Tuesday’s upcoming BOC meeting she will ask County Manager Tom Garrett for an “analysis of other counties in the state who hire a staff attorney and if they hire the staff attorney how much is the cost and we need to look at the cost to augment that staff attorney.”
Aside from that request there is not expected to be any other discussion of Craig at Tuesday’s meeting. As of Friday, there was nothing pertaining to county attorney costs on the agenda for the Feb. 3 meeting.
“The board spoke clearly two or three weeks ago and vocalized their support for Mr. Craig, and it was a unanimous decision,” Ellis said. “I do not anticipate that decision being under review. I do not anticipate revisiting that question.”
Any discussion of Craig would seem to come at the BOC's retreat in February.
"I think during our retreat is the time that our county manager will come to us with suggestions and also that is where I believe the commissioner will come with suggestions," Commissioner Lanier Sims said in an email to The News. "I think our departments use his office too much for small things that I think we could handle in house."