Decatur Co. residents question new taxpayer policy

Decatur Co. residents question new taxpayer policy
Col. Gary Breedlove
Col. Gary Breedlove
Jami Lewis
Jami Lewis

DECATUR CO., GA (WALB) - Decatur County residents are questioning a new county policy they say could waste their tax money.

It allows for all county workers involved in criminal or civil cases to have their legal fees paid for with county money.

Deactur County Commissioners passed a resolution in August agreeing to pay for attorneys fees for county employees charged with crimes that happen while they're on the job.

"The language in the resolution indicates that it is in the county commissioners' discretion and essentially they can decide on a case by case basis whether they want to pay it," said Attorney Jami Lewis.

Back in July, county commissioners agreed to pay for Decatur County Sheriffs Deputies who were under indictment. Two weeks later.. they adopted a resolution that encompassed all county workers.

That policy wasn't intended to open doors," said Decatur County Administrator Col. Gary Breedlove.

But it definitely has. Attorney Jami Lewis is representing one former Decatur County Sheriff's Office employee who the commission has approved giving $5,000 in attorneys fees after she is being charged with forgery by the GBI.

And on Tuesday, a jailer requested his attorney fees be covered by the county on a sexual assault charge.

"We wanted to bring it to the public's attention that this resolution has basically opened up the county for an unmeasureable amount of money that may go out," said Lewis.

And as County Administrator, Breedlove says it's daunting because there's no way of forecasting a budget.

"You don't know who's going to get in trouble and who's going to need help and how much it's going to cost," said Breedlove. "So I said, 'This is not a budgetable thing. It could be open-ended."

All county workers who use taxpayer dollars to cover their legal fees must sign a contract that states they will pay back their legal fees if found guilty.

County Commissioners are looking to make changes to the ordinance that would place some limits on when they would agree to pay the legal fees of county employees.

Copyright 2014 WALB. All rights reserved.