DeKalb Commission leadership vote fails

The DeKalb County Commission: (from left) Jeff Rader, Stan Watson, Larry Johnson, Sharon Barnes Sutton and Kathie Gannon. Newly elected Commissioner Nancy Jester is also a member of the board. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

The DeKalb County Commission: (from left) Jeff Rader, Stan Watson, Larry Johnson, Sharon Barnes Sutton and Kathie Gannon. Newly elected Commissioner Nancy Jester is also a member of the board. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

DeKalb County commissioners couldn’t agree Tuesday on who should be their leader, rejecting Commissioner Jeff Rader’s effort to become the body’s presiding officer.

With four votes needed for approval, three commissioners supported Rader and two opposed him. Commissioner Larry Johnson will retain the role of presiding officer until a new leader is chosen.

Opposition to Rader came from commissioners who said the board shouldn’t choose a presiding officer until a vacant seat representing 140,000 residents in southeast DeKalb is filled. That area has lacked its representative since July 2013, when Gov. Nathan Deal appointed then-Commissioner Lee May to serve as interim CEO while criminal charges are pending against CEO Burrell Ellis.

The commission has deadlocked on May’s appointment of George Turner, an active southeast DeKalb resident, as a temporary replacement commissioner. Several commissioners have said an election should be held to fill the District 5 seat, but that idea would require May to resign the position he was elected to. Turner’s nomination stalled again Tuesday.

Rader, the only commissioner to seek the presiding officer post, said that he should get the job because he would work to hire support staff, collaborate with his colleagues and push to hire an internal auditor.

“DeKalb is currently struggling under a burden of lack of confidence and lack of effectiveness,” Rader said before the vote.

But Johnson said the presiding officer should be chosen by a full seven-member commission, including a representative from southeast DeKalb.

“This is a democracy, and taxation without representation is wrong, and those folks deserve to have a voice,” Johnson said.

Commissioners Rader, Kathie Gannon and Nancy Jester voted for Rader’s nomination, while Commissioners Sharon Barnes Sutton and Johnson voted against it. Commissioner Stan Watson was absent.


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