You have requested an unofficial opinion regarding the authority of the Newton County Board of Commissioners to hire and fire county employees. The question specifically is whether the Board of Commissioners may fire an employee on its own initiative, over the objection of the Chairman. In my opinion, it lacks that authority.

The most recent version of the local act governing this question is found at 1976 Ga. Laws 3032, 3035-36. It provides that the chairman has the “authority to hire and fire all employees of the road and bridge department” and the “power and authority to hire and fire other county employees with the approval of a majority of the board.” This clear language gives the Chairman authority over the hiring and firing decisions except that approval of the board is required on decisions for a certain category of county employees. The rules of statutory construction provide that when the language of a statute is plain and unambiguous, courts may not interpret it. See Hollowell v. Jove, 247 Ga. 678 (1981). In this instance it is plain from the face of the local act that the Commission Chairman has the power to hire and fire county employees but he must obtain the approval of the Commission to hire or fire employees who are not members of the road and bridge department. See also 1996 Op. Att’y Gen. 96-12 (State School Superintendent has authority to hire and fire the five senior positions in the Department of Education).

Thus, it is my unofficial opinion that the Chairman of the Newton County Commissioners has sole authority to hire and fire county employees. In the case of employees who do not work in the road and bridge department, his authority is limited by a provision requiring the approval of the entire Commission.

Prepared by:

Senior Assistant Attorney General