(Unedited letter from Newton County Commission Chairman Keith Ellis sent to The News and to Newton commissioners regarding the Aug. 27 article, "Newton commissioner given paycheck advance")
I read with interest of newspaper articles you wrote in connection with the recent salary advance to Commissioner Henderson. I should point out the loan was fully repaid within a week and a half of the time it was made. In the past, during prior administrations Commissioner Henderson had received several salary advances and had a solid record of repayment. Please allow me to furnish you with some background information.
First, let me set the record straight by saying the other county commissioners had absolutely NO INVOLVEMENT in approving the salary advance. In fact, none of the commissioners had any knowlege or notice of the requested salary advance until after the advance had already been made. I deeply regret and apologize for the embarrassment this matter has caused them.
Second, I would like to point out that my decision was made under circumstances where I only had roughly 2 hours within which to decide what to do and I believed a young man's future hung in the balance. Apparently, the tuition financial aid promised to Commissioner Henderson's son for playing basketball did not come through after the coach who extended the offer left Tuskegee University unexpectedly. I received the request of a $4,500 salary advance the day the classes were to begin. The family had tried without success, on very short notice, to secure a loan from other sources. Before I approved the loan I reached out to the County manager by telephone and text message, but was not able to get a reply before the time the decision had to be made. The payroll department confirmed salary advances had been made to both employees and commissioners in the past. The County Clerk searched records and found no board policy to prohibit salary advances. Finally, I contacted the county attorney's office and asked if there were any legal problems with approving a payroll deduction to repay a loan. The attorney thought I was talking about a private laon rather than a county loan, and indicated there was no legal problem using the payroll deduction method to repay a (private) loan.
I then made my decision with my heart rather than my head.
(Handwritten note: Hindsite is 20/20. The Bottom Line is a kid is in college and the loan has been repaid.)