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Form of Government Committee grapples with structure, accountability
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The citizen committee reviewing Newton County’s form of government is closing in on a final draft report as it continues to wrestle with fundamental questions of structure and accountability.

The most pressing conundrum remains whether or not the county manager should report to the chair or to the entire board. Most of the committee appeared to agree Monday that the best option would be for the county manager to report only to the chair.

“There’s no easy way to hire a manager and have him answer to six people instead of one,” said committee member Buddy Morgan.

The committee also formulated a process for hiring a county manager during its meeting Monday night, recommending that a third party, possibly the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, review candidates to narrow down the pool. This third party would then submit the list to the county chair, who would rank them and submit them to the board for a 3-2 majority vote.

“You’ve got to have your chair and county manager establish a relationship from the very beginning and it has got to be positive,” advised Ronnie Cowan, committee chair and human resources director for the City of Covington.

The committee also agreed that the county manager should have the authority to hire and fire employees without interference from the board, and set the agenda with oversight from the chair. The manager would be responsible for the daily administration of all departments, including roads and bridges. The committee is also considering giving the chair a veto power, not to be used in the appointment of the county manager. 

The committee discussed implementing a rule that the agenda would have to be set and published more than a day in advance, possibly up to a week.

The committee closed by reiterating their concerns regarding the balance of powers between the board, the chair, and the manager, and agreed to continue to explore the two government structure options suggested by the ACCG and the board.