By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — An emotional Earl Randall Thursday recalled the day in 2007 when he was unceremoniously fired by former Clayton County District Attorney Jewel Scott, allegedly because he was seeking the same political office her husband wanted.
He teared up and wiped his face as he remembered the day from the stand in Clayton County Superior Court. Randall is suing Scott’s husband, Lee Scott, for interfering with his employment and causing him to lose his job of nearly three years.
“She told me she had to let me know she was terminating me,” said Randall of that day, Dec. 21, 2007. “I said, ‘Well, OK, but why?’ She told me she didn’t have to give me a reason because I worked at her pleasure. I asked her to give me a reason if she had to provide one, what would it be?”
Scott reportedly told him it was for campaigning on work time. Randall let her know in September he planned to run for Clayton County commission chairman. Randall claims Lee Scott also wanted to run and demanded Randall either drop out or be fired.
“I asked her if this was really about me running for office but she said no, it wasn’t,” said Randall. “She told me she wanted me out ‘right now,’ to turn in my keys and stuff.”
Randall said he packed up his office and was escorted out by Ernie NeSmith.
“I got Ernie the job at the district attorney’s office and we worked together in the Fulton County DA’s office,” said Randall.
That day started simple enough, he said. It was a few days before Christmas so he’d brought Jewel Scott a gift that morning. He also talked to her about a conversation he’d had with Sheriff Victor Hill.
“I told her I was upset that I’d been approached by the sheriff to drop out of the race,” said Randall. “She said she didn’t know anything about it. I had no inkling I was about to be fired.”
Later that day, he told her he was going to attend a Christmas party for investigators and she said she’d talk to him after the holidays.
“I left the office and went to my car,” he said. “I was backing out when I got a phone call to go back upstairs.”
Randall took some 15 seconds to regain his composure before completing his testimony. He said he was devastated to lose his $72,000-a-year job just five months after marrying and while paying on a mortgage.
“It was very difficult,” he said. “I had anxiety, frustration. I was hurt and sad. It was like someone died. I started looking for jobs, anything I could find.”
Randall’s recall of his years as Jewel Scott’s chief of staff stood in stark contrast to her own testimony from Wednesday. Scott described Randall as an inept worker who couldn’t handle investigative duties so she transferred him to chief of staff over clerical staff.
He said he was hired as investigator when Jewel Scott took office in January 2005 and promoted to deputy chief investigator a month later. Four months later, he said he was promoted to chief of staff and given a raise from $42,900 to $72,000. It was a position he held until he was fired.
Although Jewel Scott adamantly denied her husband interfered with the operations of her office, Randall said Lee Scott was heavily involved.
“He called me about my writing up an employee,” said Randall. “He asked me if I wrote up the employee and I said I did. He said, ‘We don’t want to make waves with the white employees because we’re going to need them come election time.’ I just put the write-up on her desk.”
Under examination by his attorney, Bill Atkins, Randall said Lee Scott’s interference with the office was a constant problem.
“He brought up two or three times a week things he wanted done at the DA’s office,” said Randall. “I brought it up to Jewel and she said, ‘You know how Lee is.’ ”
Rather than being upset that Randall decided to run for chairman against then-incumbent Eldrin Bell, Jewel Scott was reportedly happy for him.
“She said, ‘That’s great, I’ve been having problems with my budget and I’d be glad to have you as chairman,’ ” said Randall. “But the next conversation I had with her, she said Lee was upset because he wanted the seat. She asked me to meet with her and I said I would.”
The Scotts met with Randall, other staffers and relatives of Jewel Scott’s at Ryan’s Steakhouse in mid-October. Randall said the Scotts were sitting next to each other when Lee Scott broached the subject of politics.
“He told me he’d been planning to run for a while,” said Randall. “I told him I had no idea and I didn’t think it’d be a problem for us to both run. He told me I was naive if I thought there wasn’t a problem. He told me, ‘If you don’t get out the race, you’re my enemy and I destroy my enemies.’ I was shocked. He said, ‘I want him fired and I want him fired now.’ ”
Randall said he told the Scotts the meeting was over and left. Jewel Scott testified Wednesday that she didn’t hear that conversation and doubted it happened.
Lee Scott took the stand Thursday before Randall. He acknowledged that he would have had no right to interfere with Randall’s employment.
Atkins said he plans to wrap up his case Friday. Lee Scott denies any wrongdoing.