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County spent more than $3,000 on statue research in 2017

COVINGTON, Ga. –Newton County spent $3,049.84 on the “Historic Monument Project” in 2017 according to a document obtained by The Covington News.

The News received the document in response to an open record request asking how much money the county has spent researching the legality of moving the controversial Confederate memorial from the Covington square.

According to the document, the largest amount, $2,577.34, was billed in August 2017, the same month a citizen called for the statue’s removal. The remaining $472.50 was billed over the next three months.

County Attorney Megan Martin of Jarrard-Davis, LLC, said at the March 5 Newton County Board of Commissioners meeting that the county had explored if the statue can be moved under current state law. She said the current law is less restrictive on local governments than a bill that recently passed out of the state Senate and is now under consideration in the House.

“The provision of OCGA- 50-3-1, that’s what we’ve all been trying to figure out about can we relocate the statue itself,” she said. "That statute is not as protective of the Confederate memorials as the pending Senate Bill 77. If the statue were moved somewhere where it was visible, I believe that would be defensible under the current law.”

Last week, Martin told The News her office started looking at the legality of moving the statue in late 2017.

“Our office first reviewed this matter in late 2017,” she said. "As you remember, a town hall was also held on this matter in 2017 where citizens spoke about their concerns relating to this issue.”