COVINGTON — Newton County Coroner Dorothea Bailey-Butts cannot withdraw her resignation, according to the county attorney.
In a startling about-face Wednesday, Newton County Coroner Dorothea Bailey-Butts announced that she decided to withdraw her resignation. However, in a message sent to her late Wednesday that was posted to Facebook, County Attorney Megan Martin said her resignation would stand.
”Unfortunately, you may not rescind your decision at this juncture,” wrote Martin. “Probate Judge (Melanie) Bell accepted your resignation and entered an order appointing the interim coroner until a special election can be held. I have conferred with her this evening and she is in agreement with me that the authority found at Barrow V. Raffensperger prohibits your rescinding your resignation. … We have read the case and share the same opinion on its interpretation — you may not rescind your resignation. She has worked to have the interim coroner bonded today and will swear him in tomorrow. He will commence service on Friday morning at 8 a.m. I regret your change in stance and wish you the best.”
Late Thursday afternoon a letter arrived from Governor Brian Kemp stating that he also has accepted Bailey-Butts’ resignation, “effective 8 a.m. on May 28, 2021,” and thanking her for her service as coroner.
According to Newton County, any further decision on Bailey-Butts’ status as coroner is now in the hands of the governor.
Bailey-Butts posted a notice on her Facebook page Wednesday saying she had decided to rescind her resignation: “PSA..... I have decided that I am not going to resign as Newton County coroner. I am withdrawing my resignation effectively today. I am not resigning from my position. The citizens voted me in this position. I apologize for the inconvenience.”
Her decision apparently came during an interview with a reporter from Fox 5 Atlanta.
Bailey-Butts, who refers to herself as “Madam Coroner,” had written to at least two Newton County officials earlier in the week stating that she intended to resign as of Friday at 8 a.m. The county had taken steps to swear in former coroner Tommy Davis as the interim coroner and call for a special election to fill the remainder of her term.
She had also posted a lengthy statement on her Facebook page Tuesday announcing her intention to resign and outlining her reasons for doing so. Bailey-Butts claimed she was unable to fulfill the duties of her position due to a lack of support from those around her and people who were intent on sabotaging her.
Bailey-Butts went on to say that her work was criticized because she is Black and a woman.
“These people wouldn’t accept change for the better,” she wrote. “They got so used to the old system. They are intimidated by my capacity, knowledge and experience. This is a classic example of racism and discrimination.”
The county issued a statement Wednesday refuting Bailey-Butts’ claims, stating, “The Newton County Board of Commissioners and members of staff worked with Bailey-Butts to ensure the needs of the residents of Newton County were met. A budget amendment of $50,000 was made to the coroner’s budget in January for operating supplies and any additional training that was needed. Bailey-Butts was also in the process of moving to a larger office to accommodate the needs she expressed to the Board of Commissioners and the county manager.”
The county also firmly denied any claims of lack of support to the Coroner’s Office and any allegations of discrimination based on gender or race.
Bailey-Butts came under fire shortly after taking office Jan. 1, with allegations that she mishandled several cases, including an auto fatality, the death of a guest at the Hampton Inn in Covington, and the suicide of a 13-year-old boy. County Manager Lloyd Kerr filed a petition to the Georgia Coroner’s Training Council seeking to have her removed from office, stating that she “has demonstrated that she is wholly unable to competently serve as the county’s coroner.”
The Coroner’s Training Council did not act on Kerr’s petition.
Subsequently, Bailey-Butts made a budget presentation to the Board of Commissioners in which she asked the county to increase her fiscal year 2022 budget by more than 100% in order to increase her salary, add manpower and expand training.
Bailey-Butts told commissioners in April that she wanted to increase her annual pay from $35,000 to $60,000, taking the position which has historically been part-time to full-time.
Overall, Bailey-Butts proposed increasing the coroner’s budget from $110,000 to $237,357.
Despite that budget presentation in April, Kerr said Tuesday that Bailey-Butts has never submitted a final budget request to the county’s Finance Department. The county budget is expected to be adopted June 15.
Bailey-Butts, a Democrat, defeated Republican Davis in the race for coroner in November. Prior to Bailey-Butts’ election, Davis had been the only employee of the Coroner’s Office for 12 years.