The Newton County government is well within its rights to
consider having a recreation department rather than a commission.
But we urge caution, and consensus. Both have seemed lacking around the topic in recent weeks.
The Newton County Recreation Commission has made headlines in his paper since its decision to fire Director Anthony Avery on Nov. 27.
Board member Josh McKelvey, a member of the Covington City Council, made the motion to fire Avery after an executive session. Tim Fleming seconded it and the board voted 5-0 for the termination.
McKelvey, Fleming, Scheree Howard, Julius Hays and Steve Rhodes all voted to terminate Avery’s employment. Andre Cooper resigned from the board before the closed-door meeting and board members Flemmie Pitts and J.C. Henderson were not in attendance.
Chairman Danny Stone did not vote but did say at the meeting he saw a lack of leadership in the department and that Avery was not truthful in his conduct.
Avery had served in the position since 2013. He had been a county employee since 1995, and there were no letters of concern or reprimand — or anything else — in his personnel file since July 25, 2014.
Since then, the Recreation Commission named Dwayne Mask as interim director. And, within weeks, Avery retained attorney Stephanie Lindsey, who filed a notice against the county and demanded the preservation of evidence.
The next shot over the bow came when Council members Hawnethia Williams and Kenneth Morgan questioned McKelvey in a public meeting about his vote to terminate Avery. Soon enough, Board of Commissioners Chairman Marcello Banes was making a play to remove McKelvey and Rhodes. In a Jan. 9 letter, Banes said he would consider removing Recreation Board members because they opened the county “to potential legal action and (created) financial exposure” in firing Avery.
Still, the Board of Commissioners approved the decision to terminate Avery effective Jan. 30.
Getting rid of McKelvey would be particularly troubling, not necessarily because of McKelvey himself but because that means the county would have removed the city’s representation.
Newton County has made tremendous strides in the past year or so. Citizens can take pride in the government being much less of an embarrassment, and although there are many threats looming — looking at you, solid waste — there is at least hope of stabilizing the financial footing.
There is still a long way to go, but anything to get the city and county working together would be preferable than a divorce at this point. Neither Covington nor Newton County would benefit at a time when there is so much potential for all of us, if we work together.
Our Thoughts is the view of The Covington News’ editorial board, which includes Editor and Publisher David Clemons and Managing Editor Jackie Gutknecht.