In a late-night vote after an executive session at the November 15 Board of Commissioners meeting, the board voted 3-0 for taxpayers to pick up the bill for District 3 Commissioner Felicia Franklin’s legal defense against former Chief Financial Officer Ramona Bivins.
Bivins has filed a federal suit against Franklin, as well as District 1 Commissioner Alieka Anderson and District 2 Commissioner Gail Hambrick and Clayton County. The suit alleges that Franklin and Anderson violated her First Amendment rights to free association. According to the federal complaint, the three commissioners allegedly targeted Bivins for termination after her husband and District 4 Commissioner DeMont Davis called police on campaign workers for Davis’ opponent, Janice Scott. The Davis campaign claimed that the Scott campaign had been stealing signs. A responding officer misunderstood the call as an auto theft and briefly drew his weapon on the Scott team, which in turn called Fox 5 Atlanta.
Soon after, Anderson, Franklin, and Hambrick voted to terminate Bivins’ current contract, as well as not to renew her contract that was up for renewal that night. None of the three commissioners spoke when Chairman Jeff Turner asked the reason for Bivins’ termination. However, according to Bivins’ complaint, Franklin and Anderson gloated about their actions against Bivins:
“On her way into the meeting, Commissioner Franklin stated to Commissioner Anderson, ‘It’s going to be a good night tonight.'”
“A few minutes after the meeting, Commissioners Franklin and Anderson expressed glee at Ms. Bivins’ termination and purportedly voided Agreement. Franklin said to Anderson, ‘I can sleep good tonight.’ In response, Anderson said, ‘Do I need to get us a bottle?'”
Franklin had been at odds with Bivins over reimbursements that Franklin claimed the county owed her for travel expenses that Franklin had charged to her personal credit card, despite Bivins’ instruction that all BOC members were to book travel through the county. When Franklin demanded payment, Bivins took the matter to Turner. Franklin alleged that Bivins had “pointed her fingers at my face” to law enforcement officers. In a phone call, Franklin had encouraged The Clayton Crescent to pull security video from BOC headquarters. That video did not corroborate Franklin’s claims, as Jonesboro Police also had noted on a complaint that Franklin filed against Bivins.
Later, according to Bivins’ federal complaint, Anderson allegedly told Chief Operating Officer Detrick Stanford that the group had targeted Bivins:
“After Anderson asked Mr. Stanford to help her investigate Ms. Bivins’ tuition payments, Mr. Stanford offered to pay the County back for his tuition payments. When Ms. Anderson heard about this, she told Mr. Stanford, ‘You don’t have to do that. We’re only going after Ramona.'”
Bivins alleges in her suit that “The County, through Anderson, Franklin, and Hambrick, was
motivated to terminate Ms. Bivins because she is married to Mr. Bivins and because
Mr. Bivins and Ms. Bivins supported Commissioner Davis’ election campaign.”
Multiple sources have claimed that the move was related to an alleged effort by Hill to “take over” the Board of Commissioners and to install Hill as BOC chair in place of Turner. The same night that Bivins was terminated, the board voted 3-2 to strip Turner of his power to approve expenditures under $75,000, ostensibly because he had approved the county’s payments to Vanderbilt University for Bivins’ Ph.D. tuition. Bivins’ contract contained a clause covering continuing education.
Since then, Turner had received a credible threat, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and Franklin, Anderson, and Hambrick were each assigned a member of Hill’s command staff as security detail during BOC meetings—including newly-appointed Chief Deputy Levon Allen and Major Brandon Criss, who represented CCSO in a videotaped announcement about Anderson’s golf tournament.
Four days after Bivins filed the suit, Anderson announced a golf tournament, to benefit law enforcement, at the Lake Spivey Golf Club. The club is owned through several corporations by C. Harrison Braddy, an associate of Bickers. Bickers worked at the club between her sentencing and the time she reported to prison, and Jackson reportedly was in charge of booking events at the club. Braddy has not responded to The Clayton Crescent’s requests for comment.
Franklin, Anderson, and former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill had been campaigning for Scott, with the help of former Clayton County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff and political consultant Mitzi Bickers. Bickers, who through her partner Keyla Jackson’s Pirouette Companies had done political campaign work for Franklin, Anderson, Hill, and Scott, is now serving a 14-year sentence in federal prison for her role in the Atlanta City Hall contract bribery scandal. Hill has donated money to Franklin’s political campaigns, as well as those of Anderson and Scott, according to recent CCDR amendments filed by Hill. Hill recently retired after his conviction on six of seven federal counts of violating the rights of pretrial detainees under color of law; his attorneys are appealing the conviction.
Anderson was absent from Tuesday’s meeting due to the death of her father. Chairman Jeff Turner was present, but left the dais just before public comment and was not present for the vote after the executive session. (Turner told The Clayton Crescent that he had had a family emergency.) Neither were there to vote on Franklin’s legal fees. Hambrick, who is BOC vice-chair and a named co-defendant in the Bickers case, conducted the rest of the meeting.
County Attorney Chuck Reed said the last item from executive session was a vote “to authorize the rate scale for Jarrard and Davis to represent Commissioner Franklin in the amount of up to $375 an hour in the matter of Bivins v. Franklin.”
Franklin said, “So moved.”
Hambrick said, “What? Can you make the motion? There’s three of us.”
Franklin replied, “I can make the motion, or no?”
Yes,” Reed said.
“Does it matter?” Hambrick asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” Reed confirmed.
“Okay. Second,” Hambrick said. “It’s been moved and properly seconded. Any questions? All in favor?”
Franklin voted aye. Hambrick did not audibly state her vote.
Davis, who is not named as a co-defendant in the Bivins suit, voted nay.
“Motion carries,” Hambrick said.
Franklin was served in the Bivins case on November 1 through attorney Jack Hancock, according to the process server’s record, which stated, “Defendant gave permission for Jack Hancock to accept service for her.” The same notation was made on Anderson’s notice of service. Hambrick was served at home. Reed was served on the county’s behalf.
On November 10, attorneys with Freeman, Mathis and Gary asked U.S. District Judge William M. Ray, II for an extension for the county and Hambrick to file responses to Bivins’ complaint. Clayton County’s response was due today and Hambrick’s was due Thursday. However, the defense attorneys asked for a extension through December 5 “to accommodate the recent retention of the undersigned counsel and to allow Defendants the time needed to evaluate Plaintiff’s claims and prepare any necessary responsive pleadings.” Ray granted the extension Monday.
The Clayton Crescent has asked Franklin why she is having taxpayers foot her legal bill but she did not respond by press time. We will update with any answer.
Franklin’s legal troubles also include a slander suit brought by Parks and Recreation employee Brandon Turner that is pending in Clayton County Superior Court. Franklin had mass-forwarded a false claim that Turner, who is Chairman Jeff Turner’s son, was a convicted felon. In fact, Turner had been exonerated some years ago, as The Clayton Crescent found when it pulled Turner’s court records in Henry County. Franklin and Anderson then publicly harassed Human Resources Director Pamela Ambles over Turner’s hiring and implied that Ambles had not done due diligence in her part of the hiring process.
A companion suit that Turner had filed against Anderson no longer appeared in Clayton County online court records as of Wednesday morning.
A similar anonymous allegation about Davis, via robocall, was made during the race between him and Scott. As in Turner’s case, an investigation of Gwinnett County court records by The Clayton Crescent proved that Davis also had been exonerated.
Clayton County finances have taken a large hit with Hill’s legal fees over recent years.
Other votes after executive session included:
- an amendment to the Behavioral Health Crisis Center agenda item to ask for an intergovernmental agreement between the county and the Development Authority of Clayton County (Invest Clayton) to allow the transfer of two county-owned parcels totaling about 10 acres and to authorize the chief financial officer to amend the budget as necessary. This was related to Item 13 on the consent agenda and passed unanimously.
- another unanimous vote to approve a $31,461.85 property damage agreement with Clerkin, Sinclair and Mahfouz, a San Diego law firm, for an accident on March 24 near Georgia Hwy. 54 East.
Current cases against Franklin, Anderson, and Hambrick include:
Turner v. Anderson, Clayton County State Court, Judge T. Hayward, 2022CV02325 LH
Turner v. Franklin, Clayton County State Court, Judge M. Garrett, 2022CV02324 MG
Bivins v. Franklin et al., U.S. Northern District of Georgia, Judge William M. Ray II, 1:22-cv-0414