COVINGTON, Ga. – District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards recused himself from further deliberations on an appeal by a Covington City Council Member Josh McKelvey to remain on the Newton County Recreation Commission Tuesday night.
“Because of my involvement with this situation as far back as the beginning of the scenario, I am going to recuse myself at this time,” he said prior to an executive session to discuss the matter at the end of the regular BOC meeting.
McKelvey, along with commission members Danny Stone, Julius Hays and Steven Rhodes, received letters from Board of Commissioners Chairman Marcello Banes advising them of his intent to remove them from the commission. McKelvey’s letter was sent through Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston. The letter offered the four a chance to appeal their removal.
Banes contended in his letter that members of the rec commission violated county policy when they voted to terminate then-Recreation Department Director Anthony Avery.
“The Board appears to have summarily dismissed Mr. Avery without following the County’s notice and hearing procedures and in disregard of advice and instruction from the County’s legal and human resources staff,” Banes wrote.
Stone and Hays opted not to appeal. McKelvey and Rhodes appealed their termination during what was called a “quasi-judicial” hearing Feb. 6 at the Historic Courthouse. Attorneys Bob Stansfield, on behalf of the City of Covington, and McKelvey, and Sam Van Volkenburgh, on behalf of Newton County, presented testimony to BOC members, including Edwards.
At the end of the hearing, members went into executive session to consider the testimony but failed to make a decision on McKelvey’s and Rhodes’ status. County Attorney Megan Martin said the commission deferred making a decision while exploring the option of replacing the Recreation Commission with a county Recreation Department.
In response to questions from The Covington News concerning his recusal, Edwards wrote in an email, “I thought it best I recuse myself because of my involvement with the entire scenario from early last fall. I cannot comment yet (emphasis on ‘yet’) on that involvement. My recusal was more about the integrity of the ongoing process no matter what outcome my recusal might help or hinder. It was the right thing to do and I should have done it two weeks ago.”
Text messages believed to be between McKelvey and Edwards obtained by The News through an Open Records Act request seem to indicate his involvement in the situation dates back to the night the Recreation Commission voted to terminate Avery.
Edwards told The News the texts played a role in his recusal.
“They were part of the reason,” he said in an email response. “My overall involvement with everything from the beginning had more to do with my recusal than anything else.”
Editor’s note: All quotes received via email are published exactly as they were received.