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Elections board gets new chairman

By Billy Corriher

After months of accusations of micromanaging and lack of communication from some members, the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration voted Tuesday to install a new chairman.

The board voted 3-2 to install Art Thompson as chairman, rejecting the bid of outgoing chairwoman Roberta Abdul-Salaam.

Thompson, who had previously voted for Abdul-Salaam, said he did not vote for her this time because he felt the board needed a change, but did not specify why.

Abdul-Salaam said she thought some people, she did not specify who, were encouraging members to install a new chairman.

"I was told (board members) were getting a lot of pressure," Abdul-Salaam said. "But that only starts the pressure."

Board member George Sligh, who supported Thompson, has accused Abdul-Salaam of not communicating with the board and acting on its behalf without its permission. Abdul-Salaam has denied the accusations.

Sligh said he hopes the problems within the board will subside with a new chairman.

"I think it's going to smooth things out," he said. "The three of us (Sligh, Thompson, and member Bob Bolia) agree that we don't need to be involved so heavily in the day-to-day operations of elections."

In a meeting earlier Tuesday with the county commissioners, two commissioners, Gerald Matthews and Chairman Crandle Bray, criticized the elections board for its internal conflicts and lack of communication.

Matthews said the board has too many personal conflicts involved in their work. He said he worried how the conflicts will affect the new elections director, who the commissioners will vote on next week, and her ability to do her job.

The election board has recommended Annie Bright, who has worked in the county's registration office for eight years, over interim elections director Sonja Casey, who has worked with county elections in different capacities for 18 years.

Elections board members and most commissioners present voiced confidence in Bright's ability to be elections director. Commissioner Chairman Crandle Bray said he would support Bright or Casey, but Matthews, who had been supporting Casey, said he didn't know if he would vote for Bright.

Abdul-Salaam said she had received complaints from some about Casey's job performance.

"We actually got calls from city officials saying ?we can't work with her,'" she said, but declined to say who the officials were.

Riverdale City Clerk Sandra Meyers, who works with Casey on elections, said she has never had a problem with her.

"I've always been treated well," she said. "The entire staff has been great."

Casey said she doesn't know which city officials would have told Abdul-Salaam she was uncooperative.

"No one has ever told me that," she said.

Sligh said he feels Casey's lack of support stemmed from "personal things" board members felt about her.

Abdul-Salaam also said she received a phone call from state Rep. Darryl Jordan, D-Riverdale, complaining of a problem with Casey.

She said Jordan told her Casey was "rude and uncooperative" when he was seeking certain documents from her office.

Casey said the problem with Jordan was that he requested certain documents after 4:30 p.m., which is the office's posted deadline for requests.

"He was not denied access," she said. "Our policy is clearly posted."