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Craig controversy gathers steam with 11Alive report

To see Commissioners responses to the 11Alive report, click here.

Some local residents expressed anger at County Attorney Tommy Craig and the Board of Commissioners Friday following a Channel 11 news report on Craig’s longstanding tax problems and his $1.1 million income from the county last year. Watch it here.

The unflattering report comes just weeks after Craig was unanimously reappointed by the board. It also mentioned the controversy over Craig's handling of the proposed Bear Creek reservoir.

The News visited three popular local breakfast spots and found that while many people had yet to see the report, those who had were frustrated with what they saw as a lack of accountability on behalf of Craig and the BOC.

One Newton County employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said tax dollars could be better spent. He also criticized Craig’s refusal to answer questions on the record.

“There’s such a turnover in public safety around here and for him to be pocketing $1.1 million and not paying taxes on it, on top of being gutless and not wanting to talk about it--if he wasn’t doing anything wrong he would have talked to the reporter,” said the employee. “I think we should take that money and put it towards public service or the community in some way.”

“I think he’s a crook, honestly,” the employee added.

“He’s overpaid,” said Covington Resident Robert Clay of Craig. “The sheriff’s department needs a raise…we had eight deputies quit in the past two months because [they need] more money.”

Another local resident who declined to give his name said Craig’s tax woes, which date back to 2010 when the first lien appears to have been issued, were common knowledge.

“They ought to fire him is what they ought to do, him and [County Chairman Keith] Ellis and [County Commissioner J.C.] Henderson,” he said. Ellis and Henderson have both voiced strong support for Craig. 

Regarding Craig’s recent unanimous reappointment, the resident said, “I don’t think the public had any view on it, they kinda just accepted it.”

Craig’s reappointment earlier this month was met with criticism from some citizens after it was revealed that the county spent 73% of the county’s annual legal fees budget within the first few months of the 2015 fiscal year.

His 2014 income from the county was $1.1 million, prompting more debate. For comparison, if Craig spent eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year on county business and charged $500 an hour, it would still only add up to $1,040,000. 

According to records at the Superior Court Clerk’s office, Craig owes $332,531.60 in state taxes from 2003 to 2005, and $3,838,996.45 in federal taxes from 2003 to 2010. Craig’s wife, Deborah Craig, also owes over one million in taxes as his nominee, according to the available records. Jointly, they have paid off $782,333.62, according to the same records.

The county's legal fees will likely be discussed at the BOC's annual retreat on February 20-21 where The News will be providing extensive coverage.