Ramona Bivins has been named chief financial officer for Clayton County Public Schools. Bivins previously had worked for the Board of Education as budget director and interim chief financial officer. She also has worked as budget director Atlanta Public Schools and for school systems in Tennessee and Texas.
Superintendent Dr. Anthony W. Smith made the recommendation after an executive session during Monday’s work session. Dr. Mark Christmas moved to vote on the recommendation and Board Chair Jessie Goree seconded the motion. The vote was 8-0, with one abstention:
Asked for comment on Bivins’ appointment, Smith issued this statement Tuesday: “I am appreciative of the confidence the Board of Education has exhibited in approving my hiring recommendations at the work session. The placement of these highly qualified candidates in key positions of administrative responsibility will continue our work of ‘Building a Better Tomorrow, Today.'”
Most recently, Bivins served as CFO of Douglas County after she was removed in a 3-2 vote as Clayton County CFO. At the time, the board majority declared her then-current contract ultra vires in a prepared statement delivered by District 1 Commissioner Dr. Alieka Anderson, declined to renew her new contract, and gave her two days to clear out her county office.
The majority also questioned whether Bivins’ tuition at Vanderbilt University fell under a provision in her contract for continuing education; Bivins contends that it did. The majority then stripped Chairman Jeff Turner of his power to approve large-dollar expenditures without the rest of the board’s approval.
Franklin has pushed for an audit of county finances in the wake of Bivins’ termination. One audit by Terminus suggested that all commissioners’ spending be included going forward; the Franklin-led 3-2 majority rejected that suggestion. A second audit by Mauldin and Jenkins, which is due out any day now, has raised questions about spending on travel.
One year before Bivins was terminated, Franklin had filed a complaint with Jonesboro Police after a dispute with Bivins over travel allowances, claiming Bivins had “pointed her fingers” in Franklin’s face. JPD reciewed security video and did not find that to be the case. Since then, Franklin has had to repay some of her county travel expenses.
Bivins has since filed a federal civil suit against the county and Anderson, District 2 Commissioner Gail Hambrick, and District 3 Commissioner Felicia Franklin. In that suit, Bivins has alleged that Franklin and Anderson cheered her termination and that Anderson later told Chief Operating Officer Detrick Stanford he did not have to repay his graduate school tuition, allegedly saying “we are only going after Ramona,” according to Bivins’ complaint filed in the U.S. Northern District of Georgia.
Anderson left her position on the Clayton County School Board to run for the District 1 commission seat. Her campaign hired Pirouette Companies, Mitzi Bickers’ campaign operation run by Bickers’ wife, Keyla Jackson. Bickers, a close ally of Hill, is serving 14 years in federal prison for her role in the Atlanta City Hall contract-rigging scandal.
Bivins alleges that she was terminated in retaliation for her husband’s support of a candidate, Janice Scott, who was running in District 4 against Commissioner DeMont Davis. Scott was backed by Anderson, Franklin, and former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill. The weekend before the election, Charlton Bivins had told Clayton County Police that workers from the Scott campaign allegedly had been following him and pulling up Davis signs as he was placing them. When the call went through dispatch, the responding officer mistakenly heard the call as an auto theft in progress and briefly drew his service weapon on the Scott campaign workers when he arrived at the scene. The Scott campaign alleged the incident was politically-motivated intimidation by police.
Had Scott won, Hill would have had an iron-clad majority on the five-member Board of Commissioners. Practically speaking, Hill’s allies hold a 3-2 majority, led by Franklin, and have targeted anyone perceived as opposing Hill and his cronies.
Hill is scheduled for sentencing March 14 on six of seven federal counts of violating pretrial detainees’ rights by using jailhouse restraint chairs as punishment.