More than 200 voters turned out for a town hall meeting Thursday to discuss the County Commission’s recent actions to strip District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson of his financial powers. They weren’t happy, but they were calm.
“We are very much concerned about them not producing (evidence against) but accusing and stripping Mr. Henderson and District 4 of all rights,” said Pastor W.J. Smith, head of the Newton County Minister’s Association, which organized Thursday’s meeting at Bethlehem Baptist Church with the group Newton County Concerned Citizens.
Smith said the groups hope the commissioners vote Tuesday to overturn their decision to strip Henderson’s powers, and restore power to Commission Chairman Keith Ellis, too. They believe commission decisions don’t become law until the minutes of the previous meeting are adopted, and public comments are listed before the minutes adoption on Tuesday’s agenda.
If the commission does as hoped, everything ends there. If not, “we will do what we have to do,” Smith said. That might include a march, which is something’s the county’s African-American community hasn’t done in 40 years.
“We hope we can resolve this without getting to that,” Smith said.
Smith said Henderson and Ellis were elected by the people, and that a majority of the commissioners decided to ignore those people. Henderson’s powers were removed on a 4-1 vote (with Henderson against) after accusations that a $4,500 paycheck advance violated ethics rules. Ellis’ powers were decreased in a simple political move, with commissioners voting to switch most of his powers to County Manager Tom Garrett.
The commission will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the county courthouse.