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Newton begins search to fill new staff attorney job
Will replace law firm used since 2015 in effort to lower legal costs
From left, County Attorney Megan Martin of the Jarrard and Davis law firm listens as former commissioner Nancy Schulz speaks during a July 2020 meeting of the Newton County Board of Commissioners at the Historic Courthouse in Covington. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County commissioners are advertising for a newly established staff attorney position to replace the law firm they have used since 2016.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners is seeking applications by May 7 for the job now held by the Cumming-based Jarrard and Davis law firm.

Chairman Marcello Banes first began work last summer to establish an in-house law department with county employees in order to save money on the county’s legal bills he said were significantly higher than most other Metro Atlanta counties..

Banes said the county government paid legal fees totaling $653,355 for the county and $291,207 for the sheriff’s office in fiscal year 2020. 

He said Newton County government also had higher combined county government and sheriff’s office legal costs than neighboring counties and some larger counties, such as Henry and Hall, in the past two fiscal years.

In December, Board of Commissioners members voted unanimously to proceed with the plan to replace Jarrard and Davis, which the board hired a few months after firing longtime attorney Tommy Craig.

Craig had represented the county for 39 years but was let go amid questions about spending and other issues surrounding a proposed south Newton County reservoir that was ultimately abandoned after millions of dollars were spent.

The Board began advertising for the new staff attorney position earlier this month.

It is seeking someone with a Juris Doctorate degree supplemented with 10 years “of experience in the field." The person must be a licensed attorney and “possess and maintain Active Member in Good Standing licensure status with the Georgia State Bar Association."

It wants “significant local government experience, with an emphasis on economic development, real estate, land use matters, contracts, and employment law or any equivalent combination of education, training, and experience which provides the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities for this job,” the ad states.

The attorney will advise the Board of Commissioners, county manager, county department heads, constitutional officers, elected officials, local government agencies and commissions "regarding all legal matters"; give them information on local, state and federal laws and ordinances; case law and legal opinions; and will represent "the legal interest of the County in accordance with state laws and rules of professional conduct."

Numerous other duties to advise county officials and represent the county in legal proceedings also are listed. 

The position will also be a department manager who “supervises, directs, and evaluates assigned staff: develops and oversees employee work schedules to ensure adequate coverage and control; compiles and reviews timesheets; approves/processes employee concerns and problems and counsels or disciplines as appropriate."

It will assist with or complete "employee performance appraisals; directs work; acts as a liaison between employees and management; and trains staff in operations, policies, and procedures.”

Also, the staff attorney develops “and implements goals" for the Law Department; collects and analyzes multiple sources of data; evaluates and determines trends; projects the annual workload; completes and submits yearly plans and reports and prepares and implements departmental budget; and "recommends staffing levels and outlays for client services."

An ad for the position on the county's website did not specify a pay range.