MORROW — A new member of the Morrow City Council tried and failed to get a lobbying firm run by the head of the local Democratic Party hired to represent the city Tuesday.
Councilman Chris Mills made a motion to have Capital Connections, a firm Clayton County Democratic Party chairman Kevin Thomas runs outside of his job as a political leader, hired to be the city’s lobbyist at the state Capitol. However, it died without a vote because no one on the council would second the motion.
The move, however, ruffled feathers and prompted former City Councilman Bob Huie to question whether the effort to hire Capitol Connections was a case of attempted political payback. Thomas and the Democratic Party organized a swearing-in ceremony for Mills and fellow new Councilwoman Hang Tran in December.
People who worked on the campaigns to get both council members elected thanked Thomas for his support during that ceremony.
“Mr. Mills, you’re appointing someone I think you’re indebted to for getting you elected,” Huie said.
The proposal to hire Thomas caused alarm among residents when it was brought up in a work session held shortly before Tuesday’s council meeting. During the work session, interim City Manager Chris Leighty said Thomas had submitted a proposal to be the city’s lobbyist at a cost of approximately $42,000.
“Be honest, is anyone sitting up there indebted to him for any reason?” Huie said. “Did he get you elected? Was there promises made?”
The proposal was submitted to city officials before Mills and Tran officially took office.
“We have got to stop Kevin Thomas from being hired,” resident Cheri Crisp told fellow residents Jeff DeTar and Randy Anderson during a break between the work session and the business meeting.
DeTar and Anderson lost to Tran and Mills, respectively, during last year’s council elections.
Crisp later asked Mills and Tran whether they worked for Morrow residents or the Clayton County Democratic Party. The council members said they worked for the residents.
The timing of the submission of Thomas’ proposal does raise some questions.
Thomas registered with the state to be a lobbyist Monday, according to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission website. Huie said the proposal was sent to the city before then, although he did not specify when it was submitted.
Huie also questioned whether the city needed a lobbyist. He said the only lobbyists Morrow residents need are the people they elect to serve as mayor and members of the city council.
“We’ve got representation now. They’re called elected city and county officials,” the former councilman said. “We’ve got employees here that don’t make what this gentleman wants to make in a year.”