Alana Sanders.jpg

Alana Sanders

COVINGTON — A Newton County commissioner who has been told to stop holding exercise sessions for constituents at which “love offerings” are encouraged is firing back at the county, claiming the order is a personal attack.

Chairman Marcello Banes sent District 3 Commissioner Alana Sanders a cease and desist letter Aug. 18 upon the advice of County Attorney Megan Martin. Banes wrote that he had received numerous citizen complaints about Sanders using her official Facebook page and website to promote “free” exercise classes where attendees are encouraged to give a “love donation” to instructors. Sanders was listed as the instructor at a kick boxing class she hosted, but other classes have been taught by different instructors who Sanders said volunteer their time.

“The fliers and posts used to encourage attendance at these events give the distinct impression that this workout series is sponsored by Newton County,” Banes wrote.

“Seeking compensation for events associated with the ‘Newton Community Workout Series’ presents a conflict of interest if you are advertising events as county events and then accept remuneration for your fitness instruction,” Banes further wrote. “Your actions may be subject to review as explained in the county’s ethics ordinance.”

County Manager Lloyd Kerr said Monday the county is working on a policy to govern how events such as the workout sessions are carried out. In general, Kerr said, events that are “planned, executed and most times funded by the county, are county sponsored/hosted events. Other events are those that are planned, etc., by private citizens who happen to be commissioners.”

Sanders has conducted eight workout events with a final one planned for Aug. 28. The events are conducted in the parking lot outside of the Newton County Sheriff’s Office Westside Precinct.

Banes also pointed out that the workout series poses a potential liability for the county and said that all county-sponsored workout events should be conducted through the Recreation Department to ensure that they follow the county’s risk management policies and procedures. He also noted that the real estate management company for the shopping center had no knowledge that the workout series was being held in the parking lot. If a participant were injured, Banes wrote that could also present a legal liability for the shopping center and the county.

In a Facebook post Thursday, Sanders said the cease and desist letter from Banes was a personal attack and an attempt to divert public attention away from Banes’ purchasing card records.

“This is a sad day when the government does not want you to do public service,” she wrote. Sanders said she has been a public servant since the age of 12, and the workout sessions were simply another way for her to contribute to the community.

She also said she has not accepted any “love offerings” from workout participants. As a certified fitness professional, Sanders said she is trained to host events in a manner that is safe for the instructor and participants. All participants are asked to sign a waiver, she said.

Sanders also said she believes the negative attention was brought to the workout sessions by county resident Ann Neuhierl, who was “sent” to video the most recent workout session and documented the temperature in the mid- to upper 80s, with an air quality index of 65. Sanders said Neuhierl has made negative comments on Sanders’ Facebook page in the past.

Neuhierl said she made the video of her own volition because she was concerned about the “unhealthy and hot environment.” She said she taped 6 seconds to document the conditions.

Sanders also questioned why the workout sessions are being scrutinized now, even though she has mentioned them at Board of Commissioners meetings for the past four months.

“Yes, it’s a personal attack because if it wasn’t you would have said something in May when announced at every board meeting,” Sanders wrote in an email message to County Attorney Martin.

In a video she posted to Facebook, Sanders pointed out that she is the only female member of the BOC and has felt harassed and intimidated. Even though she is vice chair of the board, Sanders said she has never been asked to fill in for Banes and that her name has not been added to the county letterhead or any county proclamations issued since she took office in January.

Sanders has asked the county attorney for a number of documents that would support the county’s decision to send her a cease and desist letter.

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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.

(1) comment


Worse Commissioner Newton County has ever had

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