COVINGTON — The Newton County Board of Commissioners meeting was cut short Tuesday night after District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson repeatedly objected to the absence of the county attorney and said he could not make decisions without legal advice.
County Attorney Megan Martin was absent from the meeting due to a family health issue. Due to a miscommunication between Martin and County Manager Lloyd Kerr, the county’s law firm of Jarrad & Davis did not have another attorney present.
The board’s agenda included at least nine items that were either not addressed by the board, were tabled or denied after Henderson said he “did not feel comfortable making any decisions” without an attorney present.
One of the items was a rezoning to allow applicant Jamie Humphries to add outdoor storage to the business on his property at 3185 and 3195 Ga. Highway 212 in a Highway Commercial zone in District 1. While District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards and District 5 Commissioner said they saw no problems with the request, Henderson again said he could not make a decision without an attorney present.
“I think this is not good for Newton County. I think we should table the zoning to our next meeting when we have an attorney present,” said Henderson.
It was explained to Humphries that if his rezoning request was denied, he could not resubmit for six months; if it was tabled, the request could come back before the board in two weeks.
“For other reasons, now I’m being punished,” said Humphries. “That’s not fair to me.”
Humphries added that as long as Henderson has been on the board, he should know whether or not a rezoning was legal.
Chairman Marcello Banes abruptly called a recess. When the board reconvened, Banes allowed State Rep. Sharon Henderson to finish remarks she had begun earlier in the evening prior to the zoning public hearing at 7:30 p.m.
Then, facing the prospect of ongoing objections about the lack of legal counsel at the meeting, Banes called for a motion to adjourn.
Other items the board failed to address Tuesday night included:
• Consideration of an update of the water model for the Williams Street water treatment plant
• Discussion/consideration of a SPLOST committee
• Discussion/consideration of the Malinckrodt bankruptcy plan
• Discussion/consideration of the donation of property on Brown Bridge Road
• Discussion/consideration of renewal of the county's property and casualty insurance policy
• An alcohol license application for the Valero station at 4625 Ga. Highway 36