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Bill allows for temporary commissioner for District 5 seat

Jennifer Ffrench-Parker | 3/28/2014, 6 a.m.
Residents of DeKalb Commission District 5 could soon have a commissioner to represent them again.

Residents of DeKalb Commission District 5 could soon have a commissioner to represent them again.

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Lee May

The district of 145,000 voters has been without full representation on the DeKalb Board of Commissioners since July 16, 2013, when Commissioner Lee May was appointed interim CEO by Gov. Nathan Deal in the wake of CEO Burrell Ellis’ indictment on corruption and racketeering charges.

On March 20, the final day of the 2014 legislative session, state Sen. Fran Millar and state Rep. Stacey Abrams succeeded in bringing legislative relief for the voters with the passage of Senate Bill 316.

Millar said he was able to attach the section dealing with the Commission District 5 situation from a failed bill to SB 367, which passed.

The section provides for the nomination of a temporary commissioner to fill the seat.

“I believe that people ought to be represented on day-to-day matters,” he said. “Now they will be, thanks to me and state Rep. Stacey Abrams.”

Millar said that Abrams approached him about the situation and they worked together to get it through.

The bill provides for a commissioner who is tapped to fill the position of a suspended CEO to nominate three qualified people from whom the DeKalb Board of Commissioners can “select a temporary replacement to fill” the member’s seat “until such time as the suspension of the public official is terminated or the end of such member’s current term.”

The section was moved over from Senate Bill 95, which failed to pass.

SB 95 also sought to make the office of DeKalb CEO a nonpartisan office.

Senate Bill 367 also changed the eligibility criteria for members of the Atlanta Regional Commission so that a member can now be “the president or presiding officer of the legislative body of the most populous municipality lying within the area chosen by majority vote of the members of the legislative body.”

Gina Mangham, a 20-year resident of Commission District 5, said it is good that the district’s residents are getting a commissioner again.

“I always prefer the electorate to pick, but I am happy that the seat is being filled,” she said.

In January, Mangham brought the issue to the attention of the DeKalb Delegation at its annual legislative public hearing on Jan. 22 at the Maloof Auditorium.

She told delegation members, including Millar, who was present, that the district was unrepresented because all other commission districts had two votes, while District 5 now only has one vote, that of Super District 7 Commissioner Stan Watson, who represents half of the county.

Each of the county’s seven commission districts are represented by a commissioner and a Super District commissioner.

May has been focused on his duties as interim CEO and only votes to break ties on the commission.

Mangham asked the state senators and representatives at the meeting to look into the district’s plight to see how its residents can be represented.

On Wednesday, Mangham, who ran against May in 2012, said she would love to be one of May’s nominees for the job.

“We need more public servants,” she said. “I hope that despite our differences, that he would seriously consider me as a public servant. For 20 years I have been serving and advocating for this district.”

Mangham said she is concerned about economic development and feels that with proper attention and investment, South DeKalb and particularly District 5 have a lot of promise.

“I believe that we have a jewel in District 5 and the rest of the South DeKalb,” she said.

Burke Brennan, the county’s press secretary, said Thursday that he was unaware of the passage of the law but would research it and respond to questions.

He said he did not know what process May would use in nominating candidates to sit in his seat.

“I am not sure he even knows about the law,” he said.

Through press time Thursday, Deal had not yet signed the bill into law. His office said he has 40 days from the end of the session to do it. Once the governor signs it, Millar said the nomination process would be advertised for two weeks in the county’s legal organ before the BOC could vote.