Following Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners vote to pay for District 3 Commissioner Felicia Franklin’s attorney in Bivins v. Franklin, a motion has been filed in federal court seeking to extend the deadline for her response through December 12. That response is due to the court on November 22; the defense cited the November 24 Thanksgiving holiday as one reason it seeks the extension.
According to the filing by attorney Ken E. Jarrard, “The request for an extension to December 12, 2022 is needed due to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and the fact that undersigned counsel was only just retained to represent Defendant Franklin. Counsel needs additional time to evaluate Plaintiff’s claims and prepare responsive pleadings. Counsel for Defendant Franklin has conferred with Plaintiff’s counsel, and Plaintiff consents to Defendant Franklin’s request for this extension.”
Also on Thursday, attorney Melissa A. Tracy notified the court she would serve as co-counsel. Both are with the firm Jarrard & Davis, based in Cumming.
The case involves former Clayton County Chief Financial Officer Ramona Bivins, who is suing Franklin, as well as the county, District 1 Commissioner Alieka Anderson, and District 2 Commissioner Gail Hambrick. Bivins alleges her First Amendment rights were violated when the BOC voted 3-2 to cancel her existing contract and not to approve her pending contract, allegedly because of her and her husband’s support of District 4 Commissioner DeMont Davis’ reelection campaign. Davis was running against Janice Scott, a candidate for whom Franklin, Anderson, and Sheriff Victor Hill were campaigning, with assistance from former Clayton County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff Mitzi Bickers’ campaign consulting business. The company is in Bickers’ wife’s name. Bickers is serving a 14-year federal prison sentence for her role in the Atlanta City Hall contract-fixing scandal.
Bivins was one of several people on an alleged political hit list that someone calling themselves “John David” circulated, claiming that Hill, Bickers, Franklin, and Anderson were trying to take over the BOC. At one point, Clayton County Chairman Jeff Turner received “threats” and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was brought in. Soon after, Franklin, Anderson, and Hambrick were assigned CCSO command staff members as security details during BOC meetings.
A year prior to Bivins’ dismissal, Franklin had confronted Bivins over travel reimbursements that Franklin said the county owed her. Bivins said that she had told Franklin to follow established travel booking procedures, which involved going through a county employee whose job it was to book BOC travel, rather than charging reservations to a personal credit card. Franklin then filed a complaint with the Jonesboro Police Department, alleging that Bivins had “pointed her fingers in my face.” JPD reviewed security video from BOC headquarters and found no evidence to substantiate Franklin’s claim.
Franklin, Anderson, and Hambrick remained silent on the dais when directly questioned by Turner about the vote. However, Bivins alleges in her suit that Franklin and Anderson gloated about her dismissal before and after the vote, and that Anderson, who had called for an investigation into why the county had paid for Bivins’ college tuition, later allegedly told Chief Operating Officer Detrick Stanford that he need not repay his county-paid college tuition because “we are only going after Ramona.“
On Wednesday, The Clayton Crescent emailed Franklin seeking comment on Tuesday’s vote asking whether she thought it proper for the county to pay for her defense, whether she had engaged the same firm to represent her in Brandon Turner’s slander suit pending in Clayton County State Court, and whether she or taxpayers would be paying for her defense in the Turner case. Franklin did not respond by a 2 p.m. Wednesday deadline and has not responded as of press time Friday morning.
Brandon Turner also is suing Anderson for slander in a separate case. The suits stem from e-mails the pair sent, falsely alleging that Turner—who is Chairman Turner’s son and a civil-service Parks and Recreation employee—was a convicted felon. The Clayton Crescent determined that Turner had been exonerated and therefore was not a convicted felon under Georgia law.
In October, Brandon Turner’s attorney, David C. Will, told The Clayton Crescent, “Brandon Turner, as you know, is a county employee, and two commissioners took it upon themselves to make defamatory statements about him in connection with his employment,” Will told The Clayton Crescent. “And they made repeated accusations that he had been convicted of a felony when he had not been, and also insinuated that there had been improprieties in his hiring and that’s not true. We gave both commissioners an opportunity to retract those statements and apologize for those statements and they chose not to. Brandon Turner is a rank-and-file worker who should be able to go about his life without being subjected to these insults, which have caused a lot of pain for him and his family.”