by Robin Kemp

This is the final week of advance/early voting for the November 3 Presidential election. We’re checking the polls this morning (voting is from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday) and will have an update for you on how it’s going later today.

Here’s a look at what’s happening this week in Clayton County:

The unsigned letter
  • On Monday, October 26 at 6 p.m., the Forest Park City Council is holding a special called meeting. The move comes after the city abruptly shut off the regular meeting’s live feed on Zoom last week, following The Clayton Crescent’s third attempt to cover the meeting in person, then added a disclaimer to the agenda stating that in-person meetings were closed to the public and news media “until further notice.” The University of Georgia Law First Amendment Clinic sent a second letter to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office over the matter. Minutes later, the city informed The Clayton Crescent that it would be required to prepay any future Open Records requests, citing a provision of the law aimed at deadbeats and frivolous filings. On September 22, the day after it was first ejected from the council meeting, The Clayton Crescent asked to see the list(s) of people approved to enter chambers to which at least one police officer had made direct reference, as well as all ORRs filed since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The city claimed that no such list(s) existed and that, despite not having a tracking system for ORRs, it had received exactly 600 in the past six months. The city quoted a price of $187.49 and sent a letter of agreement for reporter Robin Kemp to sign. When Kemp questioned how the city arrived at that figure, the city failed to respond. Kemp never signed the letter agreeing to the search and retrieval. Since then, the city has not fulfilled other pending ORRs. The Clayton Crescent is pursuing the matter through legal counsel.
  • Meanwhile, The Clayton Crescent is hearing from several sources, some of whom would not identify themselves, citing fear of retaliation, that rank and file officers in the Forest Park Police Department are unhappy with Police Chief Nathaniel Clark. These involve two main complaints: that Clark spends more time dealing with city politics than running the police department, and that he is politically allied with Ward 4 Councilwoman Latresa Akins-Wells. Recently, the city created a new position for Clark–public safety director–and quietly posted the chief’s opening. That job, sources say, is all but promised to former Clayton County Police Chief Greg Porter. Akins-Wells, who had said she disapproved of a lack of transparency in Clark’s selection as “sole finalist” for the chief’s job, became one of his top champions after an internal investigation Clark ordered found she and Councilman Dabouze Antoine had been tailed by FPPD for two years under former Chief Dwayne Hobbs’ tenure. Akins-Wells and Antoine held a press conference to announce their intent to sue the city for $1 million each. Clark turned over the case to the GBI for further investigation; the GBI sent it to Clayton County District Attorney Tasha Mosley, where it awaits further action. Hobbs has filed suit in federal court, alleging racial discrimination in his November 2019 firing.
  • Also at 6 p.m. on Monday, October 26, the Clayton County Board of Education will hold a virtual board work session. On the agenda are the financial report, SPLOST revenue report, budget development calendar for FY 2021-22, and purchasing report. The board also will get updates on SPLOST construction and personnel changes, look at tentatively adopting the schedule for its 2021 meetings, and vote on “Policy Series B.”
  • On Tuesday October 27 at 5:30 p.m., the Clayton County Board of Commissioners will hold a work session. The agenda includes a status update from Southern Regional Hospital’s Charlotte Dupre, a discussion of designated truck routes from Transportation and Development, an update from Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Chief Landry Merkison on efforts to “mitigate the effects of significant weather events through the lens of building a resilient community,” and a presentation by Community Development Director Patrick Ejike on moving Housing Services from Extension Services to Community Development Department HUD Division, as well as the creation of a direct housing services program for rental assistance, down payment assistance, and housing counseling.
  • On Tuesday, October 27 at 2 p.m., the City of Morrow’s Urban Redevelopment Agency will meet, after having to cancel last week’s meeting because, according to City Manager Sylvia Redic, the city “forgot” to publish a legal notice in the Clayton News. The agenda for this meeting, as well as the minutes up for approval from the February 20 meeting, contain minimal information, but Tuesday’s items include adopting the agenda, approving the February 20 minutes, entering an executive session, and then voting on whatever happens in executive session. This is the first time Morrow’s URA has met since February 20, which also basically consisted of another executive session. URA board members include chairman Bert Watkins, secretary Lana Labay, and Alaina Reaves.
  • On Tuesday, October 27 at 6:30 p.m., the Morrow City Council meets for its work session, which under Mayor John Lampl’s administration generally sandwiches the regular council meeting and continues late into the night, despite protests from some councilmembers. Notable items on the work session agenda include a presentation from MARTA’s Martha Mullinax, appointing an interim police chief, the new sanitation procedures, updates on the Conference center and Rule of 85 Benefits (city employees’ retirement) study, 2021 tax bill, SPLOST, and the city’s financials, as well as a discussion of “professional translators” of Spanish and Vietnamese. The city has made conscious efforts to offer ad hoc translation and interpretation for these language communities but experts in the field point to legal and ethical reasons for hiring professional translators and interpreters, rather than relying on untrained bilinguals. The regular meeting agenda appears on page 33 of the 61-page agenda packet. The council will consider appointing Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Moss “as the State Mandated Laboratory director ” and filing a “Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments application and related documents for the required certificate of waver (COW).” The council also will vote on whether Lampl can sign an agreement “with the Georgia Department of Public Health for the COVID-19 vaccination program.” The council also is scheduled to vote on whether to rent out an apartment at 1837 Lake Harbin Road to Danielle Minter, with the stipulation that “renter not to enter into storage area ever,” cut the grass, and trim the shrubbery. The city has owned the property since 2006.
  • On Wednesday, October 28 at 9 a.m., the Clayton County Board of Assessors meets, either via Zoom or at the Tax Assessor’s Office, Annex 2, 2nd Floor Conference Room A at 121 South McDonough Street, Jonesboro. The board says it will give 24 hours’ notice of whether it plans to meet in person or not. The work session starts at 9 a.m. and is immediately followed by the regular scheduled meeting.
  • Also on Wednesday, October 28 at 9 a.m., the Clayton County Civil Service Board will meet via Zoom. The last agenda posted on the board’s site was from July 22. Without an agenda, it’s unclear whether the firings or resignations of 20 Clayton County Sheriff’s Department employees over alleged overtime padding will be discussed. You can sign up to watch at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_6m2a76RSQYG5Y8dQPetvEA but must do so in advance.
  • On Wednesday, October 28 at 3 p.m., the City of Forest Park will open bids on three Chevrolet Tahoes. Specs include leather seats in the first and second rows, i)S audio system, Chevrolet Infotainment 3 Plus system, 10.2″ diagonal touchscreen AM/FM stereo, Bluetooth audio streaming for two active devices, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, voice recognition, in-vehicle apps, “cloud connected personalization for select infotainment and vehicle settings,” all-weather floor mats, 22″ bright chrome wheels, 2-wheel drive, 10-speed automatic transmission with tow/haul package and Traction Select system, and a 5.3-liter EcoTech3 V8 engine with “dynamic fuel management, direct injection, and variable valve timing” that gets an estimated 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway. The city has not responded to The Clayton Crescent’s request for more information as to which department(s) or individuals will be using the vehicles, which retail for about $60,000 each.
  • We’ve added a calendar and are populating it with events like these so you can keep up. If we missed something, please let us know! Stay vigilant and be sure to cast your vote!
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