By Daniel Silliman
Clayton County District Attorney Jewel Scott attended a political meeting Monday night, while her chief prosecutor attended another political meeting, saying she was out of town.
John Turner, chief executive assistant district attorney, represented Scott at the candidate forum sponsored by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the Clayton County Wide Homeowners Association. He said he wasn't there to make any political statement, but just to answer questions. He opened with an apology on Scott's behalf, saying she wanted to attend the forum, but was in Florida for a family emergency -- the terminal illness of a relative.
At the moment he was speaking, Scott wasn't, in fact, out of town with a dying relative.
She was with the Rev. Al Sharpton, speaking at Mt. Nebo Cathedral South, at the National Action Network's "Recommitment Challenge." Two TV news stations showed Scott speaking at the event. Turner said when he got home from the forum and saw Scott on the news, he was surprised.
"I didn't know she was back in town," he said. "I didn't know what time she was getting back on Monday."
One of Scott's challengers doesn't think it was a simple mistake, and alleged it was an example of the district attorney "playing fast and loose with the truth."
Alex Cohilas, chairman of Herbert Adams' campaign, said, "Frankly, we were appalled that she would send a surrogate to lie for her."
Turner said that as far as he knew, though, Scott was out of town, and as far as he knew, his statement was true. Scott asked him to cover the event for her late last week, he said, and they hadn't spoken about her itinerary since then.
On Tuesday, Scott said the allegation that something was suspect about her presence at one event, and absence at another, was completely preposterous and a bit offensive.
"I really didn't know whether I would be back in town," she said. "John knows the office and he can cover that [forum]."
According to Scott, she got back from Florida late on Monday, after spending time with her dying cousin, who is, she said, "like a sister."
"I didn't know if I could emotionally handle the forum," Scott said. "You know I went to the other forum on Saturday -- all that was, was an attack."
At both election forums, the two challengers in the district attorney race, Adams and Tracy Graham-Lawson joined together to assault Scott with allegations ranging from "inexperience" to not caring about dead children. At the Monday night forum, Graham-Lawson claimed Scott could have stopped the school system's accreditation crisis by prosecuting board members on charges of "malfeasance in office." Graham-Lawson's allegation was met with surprise, followed by loud applause, but her statement is misleading.
Scott is, in fact, moving to prosecute board members under the Corruption Prevention Act -- a long, slow process opposed by some prominent county officials. None of the nine mandates issued by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools as a condition of keeping accreditation, can be addressed by the district attorney's office.
In the context of the forum, with one-minute statements, that misleading fact, coupled with the suggestion that Scott is somehow personally responsible for the accreditation crisis, went unchallenged, except for one person in the back of the room who called it a "cheap political point."
Scott, who has declined to debate her challengers, said she doesn't think that method of politics is very useful.
"The easiest position to be in, is to be on the sidelines criticizing," Scott said. "You are in danger of being criticized when you're actually doing things, because, of course, you're not going to do everything perfectly."