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Lockhart takes own oath, heads first council meeting

Read Saturday’s edition of Clayton News Daily to catch up on what else Forest Park City Council did Wednesday night.

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

FOREST PARK — In an unusual move for a newly-elected official, David Lockhart took the oath of office on his own Wednesday hours before a special called meeting.

Lockhart was elected mayor April 16 and wasn't expected to be sworn into office until minutes before Monday's regular meeting. Instead, he took the oath elsewhere and presented city officials with the notarized affidavit attesting to that fact Wednesday.

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David Lockhart

Having taken the oath, Lockhart assumed the office of mayor in time to head up the called meeting. He told residents at the meeting he plans a ceremonial swearing-in Monday that includes Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Carla Wong McMillian and Clayton County State Court Judge Aaron Mason.

City Attorney Robert Mack said, while unusual, Lockhart's taking the oath the way he did is legal.

"Under the law, the oath just has to be administered by someone authorized to administer an oath, someone like a judge or a notary public," he said. "He presented a notarized affidavit, that's all we need."

Lockhart said there’s nothing “magical” about the taking of the oath of office.

“Typically, you’ll see many elected officials taking the oath of office with a private swearing-in followed by a ceremony,” he said. “I guess it’s considered unusual because at the local level you have more people who have not made politics their occupation. A lot of folks get sworn in who don’t have experts and advisors and an entourage that someone taking a higher office would.”

The first item on Wednesday's agenda involved an Atlanta Gas Light pipeline project. City Manager John Parker said the utility company is putting in a 20-inch main from Riverdale to Avondale Estates, and is coming through Forest Park. Council members voted to approve selling the easement for about $1,400.

Lockhart thought the city could get more.

"Think we can get more out of them?" he asked Parker.

Parker seemed doubtful but said he would ask.

Lockhart also wanted to know if the company would include a provision allowing the city to lower the depth of the pipeline if the weight allowed to cross the street over it increases.

"We'd have to change the depth if we wanted to use heavier equipment," said Lockhart.

Parker was even less sure about that request.

"Probably no and I wouldn't want the city to have to pay for it if the depth has to be changed," he said. "But I will ask the question."

The first action request by Ward 1 Councilman Tommy Smith failed for a lack of support. Smith took office April 1 after winning a March 19 special election. He wanted the city to cover the $2,341 cost to mail an introductory letter to every business and residence in wards 1 and 2.

"I just wanted them to have my email and contact information," said Smith. "I wanted to make sure everyone in Ward 1 knew how to contact me. I wanted everyone in Ward 2, which hasn't been represented in two years, to know I was available to help them if they needed it."

Parker said the project is cost-prohibited.

"I don't have that in my budget," he said. "A few years ago, we could send out letters for 10 to 12 cents each. That's a little bit more nowadays."

Mayor Pro Tem Linda Lord had a different concern, citing 2011 ethics complaints about former Ward 2 Councilwoman Karen-Brandee Williams using city funds to promote herself.

"What you want to do comes close to putting your personal information out there," she said. "Like campaigning."

Those complaints led to Williams' ousting from office in July 2011 and is the reason Ward 2 hasn't had representation since then. Smith clarified that the letter would include his official, not personal, information.