By Joel Hall
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) has signaled its intent to ask the Office of the Attorney General of Georgia to investigate the office of former Clayton County District Attorney Jewel Scott and its handling of the investigation of Donnie Hood, the county's former community development and building and maintenance department director.
During its regularly scheduled meeting tonight, the board is expected to vote on a resolution asking the Attorney General to examine the indictment of Hood, who was accused by Scott's office of taking a high-quality American flag, made of cloth, from the memorial of a fallen officer and replacing it with a cheaper, vinyl version. If found guilty, Hood was facing up to 10 years in prison and the loss of his county retirement pension and benefits.
The case was scheduled to be tried in Clayton County Superior Court in March 2008, but Hood died on Feb. 29, 2008, in an apparent suicide. Jewel Scott -- whose husband, Lee Scott, was running in an election against BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell at the time -- was accused by Hood's attorney and some members of the board of pursuing the investigation in order to pump Hood for politically damaging information against Bell.
The board's new resolution, a reiteration of a March 2008 resolution, states that "the members of this Board, many of whom had known Mr. Hood for many years, questioned the validity of the allegation contained in the Indictment presented by the Clayton County District Attorney's office to the grand jury" and that the board "was and continues to be concerned and alarmed by the former Clayton County District Attorney's actions in the investigation, indictment, and prosecution of Mr. Hood, and whether the District Attorney used her position inappropriately to investigate employees, officials and departments on behalf of political supporters."
The resolution further states, "a formal opinion of the [state] Attorney General has not been provided" to date and asks the Attorney General to "provide a final report of the investigation to the County, its citizens and the Hood family."
Commissioner Sonna Singleton, who sponsored the resolution, said she is doing so at the urging of Hood's daughter. She said the Hood family is still seeking closure.
"His [Donnie Hood's] parents live in my district," Singleton said. "I knew Donnie personally, and you just couldn't find a greater man. He was just a very well-liked person," she continued.
"I don't think any of us were happy with the way the District Attorney, who was in office at the time, treated Mr. Hood," said Singleton. "At his daughter's urging, I am bringing it back again. We are going to keep trying until we get something from the Attorney General's office."
Scott, whose office was prosecuting the case against Hood, said Monday that the move by Singleton was a "demonstration of the BOC's petty, personal politics." She described the board's resolution as a "political assassination" attempt and argued that the board has engaged in similar actions in its dealings with former Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner and Tax Commissioner Terry Baskin.
"That's their personal agenda," Scott said. "It has nothing to do with the search for truth or justice. Isn't it interesting that they did this in 2008 when I was up for re-election and in 2010 when I have run again?" Scott continued.
Jewel Scott, who served one term as District Attorney, from 2004 to 2008, lost a bid for re-election to current District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson. Earlier this year, Scott qualified to run against Commissioner Michael Edmondson for a spot on the BOC. She lost to Edmondson in the July 20 primary.
Jewel Scott's husband, Lee Scott, is currently running against Edmondson as a Republican in the November general election. "If you cross them [BOC] in any way, this is how they respond, and our citizens should take note. It seems that they are incapable of turning their attention to the problems of the county, so that we can get out of the rut we are in," Jewel Scott said. "They spend their time going after people who serve."
Allegations against Hood came out of an ongoing investigation into allegations raised by Lovejoy Mayor and former Assistant Clayton County Community Development Director Joe Murphy that county maintenance employees had done work on the homes of elected officials, including BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell. Murphy was previously fired by the board from his county post, on the basis of charges he had signed off on building permits without inspecting work done by companies to which he was financially connected.
Murphy qualified to run against Commissioner Michael Edmondson, but dropped out of the running in May after failing to meet residency requirements for the district.
Singleton, who won her bid for re-election to the board outright during the primary, said she intentionally waited until after her recent election, and Jewel Scott's BOC race, to ask the Attorney General to renew its efforts into the Donnie Hood case.
"I didn't want to do that during election time, because it is such a serious issue," Singleton said. "I didn't want it to be viewed as some political ploy," she said.
"Miss Scott is not running for office right now," Singleton said. "The family still needs closure on this matter. I am going to ask the chief staff attorney [of the county] to continually follow up on this matter until we get some response from them [the state]."