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Banes chairs first meeting, makes history
Marcello Banes

Recently elected Marcello Banes chaired his first meeting for the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) Tuesday night in the Historic Courthouse.

The night was filled with historic events as Banes is the first-ever African American chairman to be elected to the board. Another historic event to mark the night was the appointment of Commissioner J.C. Henderson as co-chair, making the pair the first pair of African American leaders on the board.

“This is a history-making board,” Henderson said. “I just feel honored that you’ve allowed me to be a part of history.”

Banes said he had a lot of fun in his first meeting and was proud to represent all of Newton County, not just the African American voters, during the meeting.

“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” he said.

Banes’ first meeting lasted a little more than two hours in regular session.

Commissioners excited from new start

Commissioner Lanier Sims said he was excited for the direction the board was headed with the recently-elected commissioners and chairman during the commissioners comments portion of the meeting.

“When I came here tonight, I was talking to a few of the citizens and said I was excited and I don’t think I’ve been excited to be at a board meeting in quite some time,” he said. “I really look forward to working with all of the new board members and the new chairman. We’ve got a lot of tough issues coming up in 2017, I know we’re all dedicating to representing the citizens and their best interests.”

Many of the board members echoed Sims’ comments of excitement.

“I look forward to serving with everyone in this horseshoe and also continuing to work with the citizens of Newton County to move the county forward and I’m really excited about this opportunity,” Commissioner Nancy Schultz said. “I look forward to working with all of you and working with the board.”

Commissioners plan to revise ethics ordinance

The majority of the board voted to have Newton County Attorney Megan Martin draft revisions to the county’s ethics ordinance regarding conflict of interest provisions.

Martin said she has been approached multiple times about making revisions to the ordinance.

“Specifically, I’ve had questions about revisions to ethics ordinance to address the appointment of oneself and one’s family members to board or authorities,” she said. “Additionally, I’ve been asked to address questions regarding conflict of interest when a county elected official receives monetary compensation other than for his or her duties as the elected official for business relationships that transact with the county.”

Martin said the concerns were raised about former District 5 Commissioner Levie Maddox having family members receive county contracts and Henderson’s affiliation with Nelson Heights Community Center.

Martin said the revisions to the ordinance could be ready for board review Jan. 17.

Henderson said the board was “beating a dead horse” by asking to review the ordinance.

Commissioner Ronnie Cowan disagreed and said the county needed to regain the confidence of its residents and reviewing the ethics ordinance was part of that process.

“It’s designed not to point fingers at anybody,” he said. “Its designed to restored confidence that the public would have in its board of commissioners. That’s something I think the public is desperately desiring.”

Henderson made a motion requesting the board conduct investigations into all sitting commissioners, as he has felt victimized by a recent investigation into his relationship with Nelson Heights. The motion made by Henderson failed for a lack of a second and the board moved on to vote to allow the county attorney to draft up revisions to the ordinance.