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BOC sets rules for use of county lawyer, votes pay hike for sheriff
Newton County

COVINGTON, Ga. – Sheriff Ezell Brown will get a pay raise after a vote of the Board of Commissioners this week.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted to approve the pay hike and also ratified rules about who can contact the county attorney for advice.

Commissioners approved a monthly pay increase of $323.59 for the sheriff and increased his expense allowance to $500 a month.

From the resolution approved by commissioners, “WHEREAS, in recognition of the Sheriff’s service to the Resource Court and the County generally,  The Board of Commissioners desires to approve the Sheriff’s request for a salary  supplement and increased monthly expense allowance in accordance with O.C.G.A 15-16-20(a)(3) and 15-16-20.2.

“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Commissioners of Newton County, Georgia that the additional salary supplement in the amount of $323.59 per month and increase in the monthly expense allowance to $500.00 per month for the Newton County Sheriff’s Office is hereby approved.,”

According to records obtained by The Covington News from Finance Director Nicole Cross, Brown is the county’s second highest-paid constitutional officer with a total compensation on $137,487.59. That amount includes a salary of $131,487.59 and a $6,000 expense allowance. In an email, Cross told The News the expense allowance is considered income.

“An expense allowance is considered income and used at the discretion of the recipient. He would keep receipts to write off on his personal income tax. There is no requirement to provide any documentation to the county,” she said.

Clerk of Superior Linda Hays is the county’s highest paid constitutional officer with a salary of $165,403. She is followed by Brown, Tax Commissioner Barbara Dingler with a salary of $126,925 and Probate Judge Melanie Bell with a salary of $101,003.59.

According to a publication from ACCG – Georgia’s County Association, the duties and minimum salaries of the constitutional officers are set by the General Assembly and are not within the authority of the Board of Commissioners to control, with the exception that discretionary supplements may be approved by the Board of Commissioners.

Under the rules for contacting the county attorney, county employees must submit a request for legal services to the county manager prior to contacting the county attorney for legal assistance.

The new policy also requires that all appointed or elected county officials notify the BOC chairman regarding communications with the county attorney. County attorney Megan Martin said the notification is not a requirement to ask for permission.

“This is not a permission that anyone would be seeking,” she said, “It is simply assuring that our chairman is aware of all of the different issues going on in the county.”

Constitutional officers may seek legal guidance from the county attorney without notifying the BOC or the chairman. The county’s clerk and deputy clerk may seek legal advice from the county attorney without asking permission.