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No love lost between Solicitor General candidates

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

When Tasha Mosley talks about the Clayton County Solicitor General's Office, she still says "we."

She left the office in 2006, a year and a half after Leslie Miller Terry was elected to the office, defeating the solicitor who hired and trained Mosley.

Mosley went to work for the Henry County District Attorney's office, but now she's running against Terry, in the upcoming election, and said her heart was always been in the Solicitor General's office.

"We have to go back to training prosecutors," Mosley said. "Right now, the criminals are sitting there laughing at us: 'The police may catch you, but the prosecutors can't keep you.'"

Terry, who is running for a second term in the office this year, said she's confident she will win, and sees the challenge against her, by her former deputy chief assistant, as motivated merely by ambition.

"She didn't care enough about Clayton County to stay and train and work and teach," Terry said. "Tasha Mosley always wanted to be Solicitor. My first week here, after I beat Keith Martin, she came into my office and told me, 'Keith Martin was grooming me to be Solicitor General.' Why would she tell me that? It was my first week in office."

Both women act as though they have been betrayed.

Terry described Mosley as someone who abandoned the good work being done in the office, choosing, instead, to further her own career. Mosley described Terry as someone who destroyed a good office with incompetence, turning part of the county's justice system into a joke.

According to Mosley, she decided to run against her former boss back in the spring, while listening to lawyers in Henry County describe cases they won against the Solicitor General's office in Clayton County.

"The defense attorneys were coming down, sitting in my office and laughing, laughing about the things that were going on in their cases. Their clients were walking scot-free. That office needs some type of guidance, and it's just floating out there without guidance," Mosley said.

She is campaigning with promises of more training for assistants in the office, and a better balance of treatment programs and aggressive prosecution. Mosley said she will, if elected, successfully prosecute the drunk-driving and domestic-violence cases which are, she said, being dismissed now because the prosecutors haven't been trained.

Mosley has 10 years of prosecution experience. She is 37 and single, and has lived in her own home in the Clayton County Panhandle area since 2001. She has been known, recently, as a coach for the Jonesboro High School Mock Trial Team, working with them as they won two national championships.

Mosley is promising to bring in federal grant money, and to run the office on the third floor of the Harold R. Banke Justice Center with a reduced budget.

"Every day, citizens are tightening their belts, and we should not spend their money frivolously, and we should look for ways to tighten our spending," she said. "There are little things that are not being done, things that can be easily fixed ... They just require creativity. We see what more money does: It hasn't done anything. Prosecution numbers have gone down and conviction rates have gone down."

According to Terry, her former deputy chief assistant turned down the opportunity to make all these changes in the office, and doesn't really know what she's talking about.

"She didn't stay long enough to learn, and she doesn't really know what it's like to learn," Terry said. "I put her in a leadership position. 'Deputy chief?' I gave her that title. I gave her that position to see if she could lead ... She was like any novice. She was feeling her way through it."

Terry said that when the voters of Clayton County elected her in 2004, they put an experienced person in office. Terry has 20 years experience, first as a prosecutor in Philadelphia, Pa., and then in Fulton County. She moved to Clayton County in 1992, and lives here with her husband, who works elsewhere as an investigator, and her 2-year-old son, Joshua.

Terry said her first four years as Solicitor General have been successful.

"Not only have we initiated everything we said we're going to, now we're expounding on it," she said.

Terry said her successes include:

· A diversionary program, which allows some offenders to get help, treatment and education instead of being prosecuted. About 1,400 people have gone through the various counseling programs, since they began in 2005, Terry said.

· Increasing the rate of domestic-violence convictions by 25 percent. Terry said the office improved its efforts to educate victims, getting them to testify, and investigators began to serve subpoenas to witnesses in person, rather than sending them in the mail.

· Improving the relationship between the office and the community, increasing the openness of the office and regularly attending homeowners association meetings, and Parent Teacher Association meetings.

Terry said she plans to expand those improvements in the next four years. She said she will increase the domestic- violence conviction rate by 50 to 70 percent, start a program called "Sports Rescue," to teach children life skills and character, and improve her office's relationship with the judges, the court clerk, the court administrator and the magistrate court.

"Our plan is to build on what we've done," Terry said. "The citizens of Clayton County elected experienced leadership. They elected good leadership, and they got it. That's what they need to remember."

Mosley said the voters realize there has been "systemwide failure" of leadership and the incumbents need to be held accountable, in this election, for dropping property values, millions spent in lawsuits, and a school accreditation crisis.

"In 2004, people ran on the platform, 'It's time for a change,'" Mosley said, "but nobody ever asked them, 'What type of change?'" and we never anticipated this type of change, where property values dropped and we're mired in lawsuits."

Terry said claims and allegations lumping her in with others has been the most frustrating thing about being Solicitor General.

"I am going to continue to ignore the political quagmire," she said. "I want to work with everyone, and I can have professional relationships without being a part of some political agenda ... It's unfair to lump any group together. Obviously, that's not fair and it's based on a lack of knowledge and a lack of involvement. If there's a problem with the school board, go after the school board. Don't go after an office you haven't heard anything about."