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Michael Edmondson pulls controversial Clayton County manager position from consideration

JONESBORO — A controversial proposal to revive the county manager position less than a year after it was abolished has been pulled from consideration. The move came days after Clayton News Daily published a letter from Clayton County’s seven mayors who criticized the move as “unnecessary.”

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners had been scheduled to take a second, and final, vote on the position Tuesday. However, commission Vice Chairman Michael Edmondson pulled the proposal from the meeting agenda before the meeting, according to a revised agenda announcement released Monday.

The proposal was unusual because it was being pushed nine months after the county commission voted 3-2 to abolish the position and swing the county from a strong manager form of government, to a strong chairman model. Edmondson cast one of the votes to approve the change, along with commission Chairman Jeff Turner and Commissioner Shana Rooks.

The pendulum would have swung back in the other direction if Edmondson’s proposal had it been approved by at least three commissioners Tuesday. It also would have made Chief Operating Officer Arrelle Anderson’s position redundant. Anderson’s duties are similar to that of a county manager except she reports to Turner instead of directly to the commission.

On Friday, Clayton News Daily published a letter to the editor blasting the proposal. It was jointly signed by mayors Jack Longino of College Park, David Lockhart of Forest Park, Joy Day of Jonesboro, Willie Oswalt of Lake City, Bobby Cartwright of Lovejoy, Joseph “J.B.” Burke of Morrow and Evelyn Wynn-Dixon of Riverdale.

The letter was a copy of one the mayors sent to commissioners Oct. 18. Several of the mayors also blasted the proposal during the Oct. 15 county commission meeting. During their comments at the meeting, and in the letter, the mayors expressed support for Turner and said bringing the position back could hurt morale among county employees and stir up unwanted negative press for Clayton County.

But it may not be so out of the ordinary after all. Edmondson has pushed for such a position in the past, and introduced a resolution in 2011 to ask the Georgia General Assembly to pass legislation that could create the county manager position.

The resolution was approved by commissioners, but the Clayton County Legislative Delgation, which would have had to introduce the legislation, did not act on the request.

“We respectfully request that no further consideration be given to recreating the position of county manager for the seemingly unnecessary purpose of disrupting the currently established and well-conceived successful management team that Chairman Turner has assembled,” the mayors wrote.

The item was on the original agenda for Tuesday’s meeting that was released to the public Friday. News then came that the proposal had been pulled from the agenda Monday afternoon, when commission Clerk Shelby Haywood emailed department heads and reporters to inform them of the change. Haywood also said the agenda was being changed to reflect the withdrawal of fire chief finalist Wilmond Meadows’ candidacy.

Haywood said she had been told by interim County Manager Jack Hancock that Edmondson decided to pull the county manager vote from the agenda at an unspecified time last week. Haywood, who prepares and posts the agenda for the commission, said in the email that she was not told about the change until three days after she sent to county officials and members of the media.

“Prior to the deadline of posting the Nov. 5, 2013 Regular Business Meeting Agenda on the county’s website, Commissioner Michael Edmondson requested that Interim County Attorney Jack Hancock remove item No. 10 (Ordinance 2013-254 regarding the creation of a county manager position) from the agenda,” said Haywood.

“As county clerk, I never received this information when I prepared the agenda for the deadline posting of Friday, Nov. 1, 2013,” she continued. “Mr. Hancock just notified me via phone a few minutes ago that this item should be removed from the Nov. 5, 2013, business meeting agenda.”