Two weeks ago we editorialized that the Newton County Board of Commissioners should show some leadership, define the county’s form of government, and identify its true manager. The BOC held a workshop on the topic, but left the meeting without a solution, or even clarity on how Newton County should be led.
Then just a day after that, The Covington News broke the story that Chairman Keith Ellis independently authorized what was described as a paycheck advance of $4,500 to Commissioner J.C. Henderson. Henderson paid back the money Monday, around the same time inquiries were being made into the loan. The interest-free loan was set up to be paid back over a two-year period — not around the time the media came calling.
The bottom line is that Ellis, on his own, issued a check to Henderson that was co-signed by a commissioner who had no idea the check was written to help Henderson’s son attend college.
The issue here isn’t the amount of the check, it’s why the check was written at all.
It’s obvious to us and most of the community that Ellis’ first thought at the time wasn’t that the money he was giving — out of his professed compassion to the young Henderson — was from the tax dollars of Newton County residents. Many of those same residents would like help sending their child or grandchild to college.
Why wasn’t the taxpayer thought of sooner? What fund, and from whose money, we ask, was Ellis thinking the funds would have come from?
If the chairman was so concerned about helping out the Henderson family, why not make the loan himself?
If Chairman Ellis was the head of a private company his actions might have caused him to be fired or at least severely reprimanded.
Obviously he can’t be fired by the BOC for his lack of judgement and leadership but he can be censured and have many of his duties cut back.
We ask again for the BOC to act decisively to adjust our form of government accordingly. Set in place a leadership chain of command that best represents the citizens of Newton County.
As we have said before Ellis should be out representing the county in a role more fitting to that of a manager-council (commission) form of government — being the face of the county at events and ribbon cuttings, presiding over meetings and making sure the BOC proceeds with order, while our county manager should be making decisions on budgets and management as per the defined roles of a manager-county (commission) government form.