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Jackson quits finance director position

Resignation latest in government shakeups

County finance director Angela Jackson

County finance director Angela Jackson

— Three weeks after welcoming a new leader, Clayton County’s finance department is facing another major shakeup.

Finance Director Angela Jackson resigned for “personal reasons” in the midst of budget preparations for fiscal year 2014, said Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jeff Turner. April 19 was the last work day for Jackson, who has worked for the last two years with the threat of a possible indictment for destroying county cell phone records hanging over her head.

The future of the position is now in limbo since the county now has Chief Financial Officer Ramona Thurman to run the finance department. Prior to the creation of that position earlier this year, Jackson had been the department head for several years.

“There are no specific plans at this time for the position,” Turner said. “With a new CFO in place, she might have some recommendations after she does a review of the department. Then she’ll bring those recommendations to me, and I’ll take them to the board. What she recommends is the course of action we’ll follow.”

Jackson’s resignation is the latest in an ongoing series of shakeups that have taken place in county government this year. In January, county commissioners voted to fire former County Manager Wade Starr and eliminate his position. They simultaneously voted to create the chief financial officer and chief operations officer.

The move constituted a swing back towards a strong county chairman form of government away from the strong manager setup the county operated under for nearly a year and a half.

Commissioners have also split up their constituent aide department, opting to each have their own aide rather than sharing two aides.

Turner said the resignation came “out of the blue” although he added Jackson gave him “ample notice” of her intention to resign. Her resignation letter came to him “a week or two” before her last day.

“I was not expecting her really to resign,” Turner said.

It is unclear what Jackson’s reasons where for resigning, other than that they were “personal.” Turner said she did not elaborate on what the reason was and he didn’t know whether she had another job lined up.

“She didn’t say it, and I would be speculating, but it seemed like to me that she did have a job lined up — but she did not tell me that she had one,” Turner said. “She simply stated that she would be resigning for personal reasons.”

Jackson’s resignation forces officials to move up their plans by one year for when Thurman will take over budget preparations for the county.

When Thurman was hired April 2, the finance department was already working on the next fiscal year’s budget. County officials said they expected Jackson would continue to lead budget preparations this year, with Thurman assisting her to get a feel for how the county assembled its budget.

Thurman was to take over budget preparations next year.

Turner said the resignation will not cause any problems for the budget process, though. Jackson and Thurman were able to work together for a week on the budget, and he pointed out Thurman has years of experience putting together budgets for large school systems.

He said the Finance Department’s staff have also been key in budget preparations.

“[Jackson] had a well-trained staff and as we always know, the staff are the real worker bees,” Turner said. “They’ve been doing an excellent job continuing to prepare the budget.”

Although Jackson is no longer involved with the Finance Department, the possible threat of criminal prosecution will continue. The Clayton County District Attorney’s Office began pursuing an indictment against Jackson as part of sweeping actions against city and county government officials.

She is part of a group of high-ranking current and former county officials, including Starr, Commissioners Sonna Singleton and Gail Hambrick and former Commissioner Wole Ralph, that the District Attorney’s office has been investigating.

No one in the group has been indicted, although Jackson has come the closest to criminal charges. A possible indictment against her for several charges, including “avoid a public document,” has been delayed for more than two years as the legal system sorted out whether county attorneys could be called to testify before a grand jury and whether Jackson herself could be called to testify.

She has been accused of shredding commissioners’ cell phone records that citizens requested through open records requests.

District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson would not confirm or deny if an investigation is still ongoing against Jackson.

“I’m not allowed to comment on open investigations,” Lawson said.