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Former manager plans lawsuit alleging Newton Board discriminated against him
Lloyd Kerr says social media posts, conversations show two commissioners wanted Black person to replace him
Kerr reception1
Then-County Manager Lloyd Kerr speaks to the crowd at a reception for him Dec. 20 at the Historic Courthouse. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — The county government's former manager says in a complaint that two Newton commissioners' "comments on both social media and to other commissioners regarding their intent to hire an African American to replace me" violates federal law barring racial discrimination in hiring.

Lloyd Kerr, who is white, stated in a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that commissioners Alana Sanders and Demond Mason, who are Black, "have posted videos on social media taking that position, making clear they harbored racial animus in opposing my holding the position of county manager and voting to non-renew my employment."

In addition, Kerr's attorney, Edward Buckley, sent a notice to Newton County Tuesday, Jan. 18, that stated Kerr plans to sue the county in federal court because of the Board of Commissioners' action not to extend his contract past Jan. 1 because of his race unless a settlement can be reached.

"If the county is not willing to engage with us to resolve this matter by Feb. 1, 2022, Mr. Kerr will proceed with the investigation of his allegations," Buckley said. "If we are not able to resolve this matter, we will file a federal lawsuit."

Buckley told The Covington News that "some of these Board members have been very vocal concerning their desire to hire people who are not (Kerr's) race."

"It's illegal to, first of all, hire based on race and, secondly, it's illegal to fire somebody based on their race," Buckley said. "It's pretty straightforward really."

Kerr was hired as interim county manager in early 2016 and promoted to the permanent position later that year. The Board in 2019 unanimously voted to renew his contract in 2019 for three years.

The ante litem notice sent to Newton County Tuesday, Jan. 18, stated that Sanders, Mason and J.C. Henderson posted videos on social media or expressed in conversations with public officials that made "clear they harbored racial animus in opposing Mr. Kerr holding the position of county manager and voting to non-renew his employment contract."

"Commissioner Sanders even made a recording where she specifically addressed the county manager position, noting she wanted to do a national search for a county manager with the intention of reflecting the changing demographics of the county," the notice stated.

The action not to renew his contract based on race violated part of the federal Civil Rights Act, Buckley said.

"Mr. Kerr served as the county manager for Newton County for nearly six years. Despite Mr. Kerr’s excellent performance and dedication to his job, on Nov. 2, 2021, the Board voted not to renew his contract for an additional term. Accordingly, Mr. Kerr’s contract expired on Jan. 1, 2022. 

"Ultimately, the decision not to renew Mr. Kerr’s contract is merely an extension of the unlawful racially discriminatory policies and practices that the Board of Commissioners has fostered."

Newton County also did not increase Kerr's salary to the level other area county managers make as required in his contract, the notice stated.

Kerr's contract required an increase in pay from $137,500 because it was below the market rate for county managers based on a study showing five area county managers earn between $175,000 and $200,500. The notice stated the county breached Kerr's contract because it did not raise his pay.

"The county never proffered any reason for breaching Mr. Kerr’s contract, leaving the only conceivable explanation to be aligned with the reason for his nonrenewal: race discrimination and retaliation," the notice stated.

Buckley also proposed a settlement in which the county would pay Kerr $700,000 plus compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. The $700,000 is equal to three years of pay, benefits and the salary adjustment, the notice stated. 

State law requires that an ante litem notice be sent to governing agencies in Georgia before a lawsuit is filed. 

The notice and EEOC complaint follows a similar notice and complaint from former, longtime county contract attorney Megan Martin who alleges the Board of Commissioners discriminated against her based on race and age for not hiring her after making her a sole finalist for a new position leading a newly created in-house county legal department.  

Sanders also is specifically named in Martin's notice for illegally interfering in a contractual relationship after the commissioner allegedly contacted Martin's law firm, Jarrard & Davis, to "disparage" the then-county attorney which led to her termination from the firm.

Buckley, who also represents Martin, stated she is seeking a settlement of $850,000 plus compensatory and punitive damages.

The Board of Commissioners has not hired anyone for the in-house position and would need to hire conflict counsel to represent it in the Martin case.

The county government still employs Jarrard & Davis for legal needs. Its attorney assigned to Newton County government, Patrick Jaugstetter, would be unable to represent the county because the firm is Martin's former employer and would constitute a conflict of interest.