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New form of government voted on by BOC
One surprise followed another at Thursday evening's Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) work session and follow-up special called meeting.

The BOC voted for a new form of government, an interim county manager and called for no confidence in Chairman Keith Ellis in an eventful special called meeting and work session Thursday night.

The first big motion was for a new county manager form of government, that followed a work session with discussion from Jenny Carter.

Carter, an attorney with the W. T. Craig law firm presented the revisions to a draft of the enabling legislation that, if enacted, would shift the responsibilities for the day-to-day administration of the county to a manager. The elected Chair would become the "face" of Newton County, advocating for the county locally and at the state and national capitals.
The work session was followed immediately by a special called meeting. The BOC voted 4-0, with Commissioner J. C. Henderson abstaining, to approve the new government legislation.

Ellis, who stated he did not support the motion, cast a symbolic vote against it. Earlier, he told the BOC he would tell the county's legislative delegation to reject the Board's action and send the legislation back to the board with instructions to put the issue on a ballot so residents could vote on it.

Shortly afterwards, District 1 Commissioner John Douglas made a motion asking the BOC for a vote of no confidence for the chair. The resolution gave an overview of the growing conflict between the chair, the board and the county staff, saying, "Over the past three years, county government has lurched from one crisis to another. Each succeeding crisis has been more severe than the previous crisis ..."

The motion continued with, "The most serious problem has been conflicts between the chairman and the county manager on one hand and members of the board of commissioners on the other hand. These problems have escalated to the point that most government progress has stopped in the county. That ongoing conflict has also caused a serious loss of key county employees, many wasted dollars and a general perception that Newton County government has no clue how to operate or which way to turn."

The motion, which was a public showing of disfavor from the board, ended with a request that the BOC go on record with a vote of no confidence in the current chair. Ellis will remain as Chair of the county through December after choosing not to run for a second term.

The third of the three big notions Thursday was for Planning and Zoning Director Lloyd Kerr to serve as interim county manager. District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz made the motion, which was seconded by District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims, who requested to add to the motion that Kerr return to his position when his role as county manager ended.
The motion for Kerr to serve as the interim county manager passed unanimously.

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