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County manager disputes Newton coroner’s claims about budget, access
Said she was forced to pay for office supplies and gas from own pocket
Bailey-Butts at BOC
Then-Coroner Dorothea Bailey-Butts speaks to the Newton County Board of Commissioners Jan. 19 at the Historic Courthouse. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — The county manager said he likely has found office space for the new coroner and is working with her to see how much in new funding she needs for operations and personnel in her office.

County Manager Lloyd Kerr said he has identified space suitable for Coroner Dorothea Bailey-Butts to use for an office after commissioners recently asked him to search through county-owned buildings.

Kerr said existing space in the former R.L. Cousins Middle School building likely would work as an alternative to the comparatively small office assigned to the coroner in the Historic Courthouse.

He also said the county was “trying to get all of this stuff wrapped up” to deal with claims and problems Bailey-Butts discussed in a presentation to the Newton County Board of Commissioners Jan. 19.

The coroner told commissioners she needed $3,500 for training and $5,500 for supplies. 

She also explained about problems she had in dealing with the county government staff, including finance officials telling her she would have to personally cover any spending beyond her office’s 2021 budget through June 30.

Bailey-Butts said she had hired an administrative assistant and used her personal funds to pay her salary; and hired a deputy coroner but had not paid her. 

Her personal funds were used to buy the initial office supplies for her office and gas for the coroner’s two vehicles, she said.

Commissioners on Jan. 19 gave preliminary approval to a one-time payment of up to $50,000 to Bailey-Butts but required Kerr and Finance Director Brittany White to work with her on a final amount she will need for her office to operate through June 30.

Kerr said he did not speak up at the Jan. 19 meeting because he needed to investigate some of her claims.

He said she has about $49,000 remaining in her 2021 budget and part of it likely will be needed for salaries.

However, he said “there was sufficient money in there” for training and supplies.  

The coroner did not properly notify county officials before hiring a deputy coroner she told commissioners she was unable to pay for the work she already did, Kerr said.

He said she should have hired the deputy coroner as a contract worker rather than an employee because the county considers them to be individual contractors. They are paid on a per-case basis.

He said she never submitted necessary information to the county to verify they met, for example, federal requirements that prohibit the hiring of someone not authorized to work in the U.S.

“We’ve got to verify them,” he said. “We do have a vetting process.”

County finance officials also never told Bailey-Butts she had to pay from her personal funds if she exceeded her department’s 2021 budget, Kerr said.

“Nobody ever said that,” he said. “That’s a complete fabrication.”

Kerr said finance officials had worked with her to explain her budget and how the budget process worked before she went to commissioners for the extra money. 

Department heads typically request a budget amendment if needed for funding that exceeded their budgets. If available, money can be shifted from other areas to meet the amounts they requested, Kerr said.

County finance officials then would undertake “very close monitoring” of the department head’s budget to “see that it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Kerr said Bailey-Butts could have used the county government’s accounts with Amazon and Office Depot to buy office supplies. She also had received a key to use at the county’s gas pumps to fill up vehicles 24 hours a day, Kerr said.

She had not submitted any requests for reimbursement, Kerr said Wednesday.

“She’s complained about a lot but done nothing to facilitate it,” he said.

Bailey-Butts did not respond to emails and a phone call for comment.