DeKalb: What should be on the agenda, The Same Game Plan, What has changed?
Dear Residents of DeKalb and Citizens of Georgia lend me your ears. We need change in the state laws in Georgia. What I witnessed in DeKalb County could be coming to your county or a city near you. What happened the last 4 years in DeKalb was an affront to the democratic process. I say this, because a series of events have occurred in DeKalb and no laws have changed. The laws need to be reformed first not the government. If you do not change the laws the same thing will happen again. I ask you to let your state representatives know that you want government reform that gives you more power to select and remove your elected leaders.
After 4 years of dealing with a series of events from having an unelected, appointed DeKalb School Board, interim leadership in the DeKalb CEO Office, vacant District 5 commission seat, a vacant District 7 commission seat, there has not been any change in the State laws to address the vacancy provision in the DeKalb Organization Act, or the Governor’s appointment powers that allowed Governor Deal to bypass an election to address problems with the DeKalb school board.
Currently, under Georgia law a vacancy is not occurring unless, a person resigns, or dies in office. I was stunned to learn that the only alternative that citizens had to correct the problem was the action of the Governor. There is a succession provision in the County Organization Act. However, it is intended to be a temporary solution until an election can be scheduled. In addition, there was another option which is a Recall, it was not done. In the State of Georgia it is more difficult to recall an elected official than it is to create a new city. The Georgia Recall provision of elected officials should also be revised to make it easier to remove elected officials.
Nowhere in the US Constitution or in the judicial system does financial costs triumph the right of the people to elect their representatives, or to have due process. Last Winter, District 7 Commissioner Stan Watson resigned his seat to run for Tax commissioner. This left a vacancy in the DeKalb District 7 Commission Seat which remained vacant for over 9 months. There was no appointment, no special election, and half the County was under represented. Before that, there was a vacancy in the 5 District. With all the elected government officials that we have in the County, It was stunning to see all of this happen. The current County code reads “In the event a vacancy occurs on the commission or in the office of chief executive when at least one hundred eighty (180) days remain in the unexpired term of office, the election superintendent of DeKalb County, within fifteen (15) days after the vacancy occurs, shall issue the call for a special election to fill such vacancy for the unexpired term. Such special election shall be held not less than twenty‐nine (29) nor more than forty‐five (45) days after the issuance of the call, and shall be held and conducted in accordance with the provisions of Code Title 34, known as the “Georgia Election Code” [O.C.G.A. § 21‐2‐1 et seq.]”
In the case of Burrell Ellis, he had been indicted and was removed/suspended from office without conviction. Although, he was later convicted, by a jury he still held the title of CEO. The current law does not remove an office holder title until his appeals are exhausted or his elected term ends, whichever comes first. In the case of Burrell Ellis’ conviction, it was overturned and Mr. Ellis retained his office for the last month of his term.
In the case of the 5th District commissioner seat which Mr. Lee May held prior to him becoming Interim CEO, remained underrepresented for nearly two years. I could not understand how a person could hold an executive branch office, and a legislative position at the same time. In the future, if a person accepts an appointment, they should be willing to give up their current position. A person should not be able to hold two elected positions, but it happened. It took 2 years before there was a special district 5 election, which was scheduled once Burrell Ellis was convicted by jury.
The indictment process should be reformed. The police and the government should not have privileges to testify in a grand jury when a defended does not have the same right I propose, if an elected official is indicted that he or she should not be removed from office, unless they are convicted and their appeals have been exhausted.
I hope the people who are in a position to make a difference in the media and elected positions will make it easier for people to have faith and participate in their government. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know one thing, and that is, I do not want to go through the last 4 years again. Changing the form of government without addressing the issues of succession, appointment, recall, and when elections are scheduled will not solve our problems.