COVINGTON — Senior staff members of the Newton County Recreation Department who received one-time bonus payments in December were told Monday night that they will have to return the money.
Newton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Marcello Banes, County Attorney Megan Martin and County Manager Lloyd Kerr met with the Recreation Commission board in an hour-long closed-door session Monday. Afterwards, Banes said the commission had been informed that the money would have to be repaid.
Recreation Commission Chairman John Anglin said Tuesday the board is acting on the legal advice received Monday night.
“We have instructed our team to pay back the salary increase payment and a payment plan will be discussed with each individual,” he said.
Banes said the bonus payments are not legal under the state’s gratuities clause, which states that the General Assembly shall not grant or authorize extra compensation to any public officer, agent, or contractor after the service has been rendered or the contract entered into. The clause is applied by extension to local governments, authorities and agencies.
The bonuses totaled more than $28,500, with each employee receiving 8 percent of their annual compensation, as follows: Executive Director Ternard Turner, $6,166; Assistant Director Dwayne Mask, $5,120; Athletic Manager Horace Stroud, $4,171; Finance Manager Greg Sullivan, $4,298; Recreation Administrator Matt Taylor, $4,373; and Recreation Administrator Kale Curtis, $4,373.
According to documents obtained from the county through an Open Records Act request, the bonuses were “based on employee performance and the availability of funds through salary savings.” Those savings were apparently achieved through vacant positions during the fiscal year.
The bonuses were unanimously approved by the Recreation Commission board at a Thursday, Dec. 12, special called meeting. The bonuses were apparently paid in addition to the $300 each county employee received at the holidays. That holiday bonus is considered an incentive and was budgeted by the Board of Commissioners.
Banes said he was “disappointed” that, in his opinion, a department director had structured a plan in order to get a raise.
Recreation Director Tenard Turner has been with Rec Department just over a year. He was hired in December 2018 after serving as division manager of Parks and Recreation for the city of South Fulton. Turner earns an annual salry of slightly more than $76,000.