COVINGTON — Legislation dissolving the Newton County Recreation Commission has been approved by the Georgia House and Senate. The local bill, sponsored by legislative delegation leader Rep. Pam Dickerson, D-Conyers, now awaits the governor’s signature.

The legislation was requested by the Newton County Board of Commissioners after the Recreation Commission approved bonuses in December for six top level employees of the Recreation Department. Those bonuses, which ranged from $4,373 to $6,166, equivalent to 8% of each employee’s salary, were later determined to be in violation of the state’s gratuities clause because they were not part of the employees’ compensation package.

The employees were told in January to repay the bonus money but, as of this month, no repayment has been made, although the Recreation Commission has reimbursed the county for the total $28,500 paid out.

At a Recreation Commission meeting Monday, long-time member Flemmie Pitts said the bonuses were paid to the employees because they had taken on additional duties due to the death of an employee and some other job vacancies. Pitts said the Rec Commission decided to go with a one-time bonus because it could be paid out of salary savings rather than a salary increase that would have to be funded on an annual basis.

The passage of legislation dissolving the Recreation Commission will bring operation of the Recreation Department under the control of the Board of Commissioners. Marcello Banes, chairman of the BOC, said earlier this week that an advisory committee will be appointed to make recommendations to the BOC, much like the way Newton County Senior Services is operated.

Recreation Commission members indicated Monday night that, when the bonuses are repaid, the money would be directed to fund scholarships for youngsters who cannot afford registration fees for athletic programs. It was not immediately known if that plan would stay in place under BOC management.

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I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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