By Curt Yeomans and
Clayton County Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley was pulled over last Thursday, just before 10 a.m., in Forest Park, for what he called a "minor traffic violation. They stopped me for running a stop sign, with a California driver's license," Heatley said.
The traffic stop happened at 9:50 a.m., at the intersection of College Street and Robin Lane, according to Forest Park Police spokesman, Major Chris Matson. Matson said that Heatley's position as school superintendent did not immediately come up during the traffic stop. "Only after the citation was issued did his employment come to light, in casual conversation," Matson said in a written statement.
In the statement, Matson said the routine traffic stop was complicated by the fact that Heatley was driving with a California license. "Through conversation, the officer learned Dr. Heatley has lived in Georgia for less than 30 days, and has a verifiable Georgia residence address," Matson said. "Georgia law requires new residents to get a Georgia driver's license within 30 days; fortunately Dr. Heatley had not been here that long, so this law ... had no bearing on the situation.
"The officer followed our procedures, and Dr. Heatley was issued a stop sign violation citation as anyone else would have been," Matson added.
According to the Georgia Department of Drivers Services' web site, anyone who moves to Georgia, has 30 days to apply for a Georgia driver's license. Heatley became Clayton County's schools superintendent on July 1.
In addition to driving with an out-of-state license, the fact that Heatley had a California license complicated matters, because the state is one of six U.S. states that are not part of the Non-Resident Violator Compact, Matson said.
Georgia Department of Drivers Services General Counsel Jennifer Ammons said the other states which are not part of the compact are Alaska, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, and Wisconsin. States that participate in the compact share driver-records information with each other, Ammons said.
This means that, if a driver from a state that participates in the compact gets a traffic ticket in Georgia and does not pay the mandatory fine, or appear in court, his or her license can be suspended by his home state's drivers-services department, Ammons said.
For drivers who have a license from a state that does not participate in the compact, the normal procedure is for the driver to be taken in for fingerprinting and photographing, and to pay a cash bond, or sign a signature bond agreeing to appear in court, Ammons said.
"It's just a paper work thing," used by the state to guarantee that drivers from states not participating in the compact appear in court, Ammons said. Neither Matson, nor Heatley said whether the schools chief was fingerprinted or photographed.
Forest Park police were slow to respond to the Clayton News Daily's requests for information about the incident, including a request for a copy of Heatley's traffic citation, after Matson gave details of the traffic stop to another area newspaper over the weekend.
When contacted about it on Monday, Matson declined to comment on the matter, citing orders from Forest Park Police Chief Dwayne Hobbs that he not discuss it during an ongoing review of the incident. Matson did not say why a review was taking place.
Then, on Tuesday, Matson released the written statement on the matter. On Tuesday afternoon, Heatley declined to discuss the issue, other than to confirm that it happened. "I'm not going to make a statement about that," he said. "If I had a Georgia Driver's License, I probably would have gotten a ticket and rolled on."
Heatley did not say whether he had applied for a Georgia driver's license, and he could not be reached again on Tuesday evening.