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Newton board considering local funds for DA's gang-focused positions
Money will provide supplies, equipment for new investigator and assistant; state funding runs out Dec. 31
Newton County Historic Courthouse
The Historic Courthouse in Covington where the Newton County Board of Commissioners meets. - photo by File Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County's governing body will consider providing up to $12,500 in local money to help pay for two state-funded positions for the district attorney to help prosecute gang-related crime.

However, the Board of Commissioners will wait until District Attorney Randy McGinley returns with a final amount of local money he will need for the positions in 2022 before considering if the county will take over their funding in 2023.

The Board voted Tuesday, Jan. 18, to approve McGinley's request to accept a grant from the Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts for up to $144,000 to fund new investigator and investigative assistant positions in Newton County through Dec. 31.

McGinley, who is district attorney for Newton and Walton counties, said the positions will focus on investigating gang-related crimes for the Newton County DA's office.

The investigator also will work with the Newton County School System to educate students about the dangers of such criminal activity, he said.

"There's got to be some work done on that end as well, not just on the prosecution end," McGinley said.

"The idea is the position is not just investigating cases, because they're doing a lot of that, but it's also going to be working with schools, going to schools, talking to young kids about gangs ... and trying to educate the public, as well," McGinley said.

"One of the issues we've had in both counties is when we've had bigger operations that involved local law enforcement or the feds, (and) whenever somebody is head of a gang and gets put in prison, people fill those shoes pretty quickly," he said. 

McGinley asked the Board to provide county funds for the two positions and get reimbursed by the Administrative Office of the Courts. 

He said the final amount needed from county funds for salaries will decrease as the calendar year progresses because the DA's office will need time to find qualified applicants and hire them.

"It's doubtful that we'll even spend that amount ($144,000). It's for calendar year 2022 and it ends Dec. 31 no matter when you hire somebody," he said.

County funding approved for the positions will come from a contingency fund set aside for unforeseen expenses that the Board annually includes in the budget, said county Finance Director Brittany White.

White said the requested money was not included in the 2022 budget and she wanted to "wait and see when he hired someone" before submitting a budget amendment to the Board.


McGinley said he was able to obtain a vehicle for the investigator from the county's fleet, and secured funding for laptop computers and monitors from a separate state ARPA grant.

He said he needed about $12,500 in local funding because the grant will only provide $2,500 for supplies and equipment for the two positions.

However, he $2,500 was not enough money to buy desks, a copier and scanner; a bulletproof vest, firearm and ammunition; and law enforcement equipment for the investigator's vehicle.

"Investigators are sworn police officers that have been deputized by the sheriff's office," he said.

Funding for the grant comes from the Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts' share of COVID relief money approved in the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. 

The Administrative Office approved the money for the Alcovy Judicial Circuit to help tackle a backlog of cases related to the court system's partial shutdown in 2020 and 2021 that state judicial leaders ordered because of the pandemic, McGinley said.


The grant will only fund the positions through December and McGinley said he wanted commissioners' assurance they will keep funding the positions with local money beyond Jan. 1, 2023.

"I seek a little guidance on that going forward," he said. "I think it's something that's very important for this county."

McGinley said the judicial circuit can reapply for the state grant annually for three years but he did not know "if that money will be available going forward" because the Administrative Office's intent was to award most of it early in the three-year period.

"I know that's kind of an awkward thing and budgets change and years change," he said. "But I also know this county is getting an additional $10 million or so of additional ARPA money, and I know that's something that we'll have to come up again before the Board for further requests."

He said he did not want to try to hire for the positions if they were basically "short term contract" positions.

"I'd like for the board to consider and start thinking about ... these two positions being funded going forward," he said.

"This way, when I can hire people, which I hope will be very soon, I can tell them, 'This position — you're not going to be done Dec. 31.'"

Chairman Marcello Banes suggested McGinley return with his budget addition at a later meeting and discuss it and the need for future funding with the Board.

"That's something we can put on the agenda and you can ask the board how can we move forward with that," Banes said.