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BOC approves COO duties, but rejects advance notice requirement

JONESBORO — The Clayton County Board of Commissioners rejected a bid to require county Chief Operating Officer Arrelle Anderson seek commissioners approval to discipline department heads Tuesday.

The commission weighed two competing ordinances outlining the duties for Anderson, whose position was created earlier this year. One ordinance, numbered 316, was presented by commission Vice-Chairman Michael Edmondson and the other numbered 317 was presented by Commissioner Gail Hambrick.

“The difference in the two is 317, in paragraph three, calls for a requirement on the part of the chief operating officer to — in the event of any disciplinary action proposed to be taken by that officer against any department head — notify 10 days in advance,” interim County Attorney Jack Hancock told commissioners during a pre-meeting work session.

Hambrick’s resolution included the 10 days advance notice requirement while Edmondson’s did not. After Edmondson’s ordinance passed by a 3-2 vote — with Hambrick and Commissioner Sonna ingleton voting against it — Hambrick rescinded her ordinance.

With an ordinance now adopted, a clearer picture exists of the exact authority held by Anderson.

She cannot demote or fire a department head. That power lies solely with the commission. However, she can conduct investigations of department heads and make recommendations to the commission to demote or fire department higherups.

Staff employed at the commissioner’s office, except Chairman Jeff Turner’s assistant and commissioners constituent aides, will report to Anderson. Office managers, the county television station staff, the broadcast communications and marketing manager, chief operating officer’s assistant and capital or SPLOST project managers will also report to Anderson.

She also has the authority to interview department head candidates and make hiring recommendations to the commissioners. She is authorized to conduct performance reviews on department heads, and oversees execution of projects assigned to them.

Anderson will be required to keep Chief Financial Officer Ramona Thurman up-to-date on department and program financial needs.

She must keep commissioners “fully advised” about county operations and needs, and confer with and advise other elected and appointed officials who are not under the direct supervision of the commission but rely on its financial support. Such elected positions might include the constitutional offices of sheriff, district attorney and tax commissioner.

If Anderson is unable to perform her duties, or if the chief operating officer position is vacant, those powers would shift to ommission Chairman Jeff Turner.

The 10-days requirement caused a very brief debate between commissioners during the pre-meeting, but the issue went without comment during the business meeting. The issue at the center of the debate was whether commissioners needed advanced notice of minor disciplinary actions taken against department heads.

Hambrick and Singleton said they would like to have the advanced notice. Turner cut off debate on the matter after a minute, so Hambrick and Singleton did not get to explain their support of the requirement on the record.

But Turner said he preferred Edmondson’s version because it allowed Anderson to have straightforward authority to help run the county. Requiring board permission to take disciplinary actions would have undermined that authority, he said.

“That circumvent her ability to do her job effectively because if three commissioners get together and say, ‘Hey, we don’t agree with that director being disciplined,’ then there will be no action taken,” Turner said.