DeKalb County’s Interim CEO Lee May says he plans within the next 30 days to start looking for someone for the vacant District 5 Commission seat that residents have demanded be filled.
District 5 has been without full representation on the DeKalb Board of Commissioners since July 16, 2013 when May, who held the seat, was appointed interim CEO by Gov. Nathan Deal in the wake of CEO Burrell Ellis’ indictment on corruption charges. Commissioner Stan Watson, who represents the Super District 7, which includes District 5, has served constituents in the interim. The governor signed SB 367 on April 10, paving the way for an appointment to be made.
“My No. 1 goal is to get someone to represent District 5,” said May. “This will be an open and fair process.”
May said he would solicit applicants through advertisements that will run in the county’s legal organ and community newspapers for two weeks. He said he would appoint a three-member panel comprised of citizens who live in District 5 to review the applicants and recommend two candidates for consideration. May said he would submit one nominee to the board to confirm or reject.
“We will solicit applicants through the ads, but I have also asked the board to submit any names they receive to ensure that we get the best possible pool of candidates,” said May.
Commissioner Larry Johnson, the board’s presiding officer, said he plans to seek input from the other five commissioners to ensure that everyone is on one accord concerning the nominations process.
“It was my understanding that the intent of the legislation passed was done so the Board of Commissioners would have a much broader role in selecting someone to fill the seat. It’s a unique situation. Nobody thought that the CEO would have the authority to nominate someone for his own seat,” Johnson said. “We’re in this quandary because our legislators did not look more closely at the bill before it was passed to see how it would specifically impact DeKalb.”
May said in a letter that he submitted this week to Johnson and the BOC that County Attorney O.V. Brantley has issued a legal opinion that SB 367 must be handled in accordance with section 13A of DeKalb’s Organizational Act.
“Whenever any law of this state requires a county governing authority to appoint a person to fill a post in any public office, such posts shall be filled by a nomination by the CEO and confirmation by the BOC,” according to Brantley.
May said he plans to keep the nominations process transparent.
“This is not about Lee May appointing his own successor. It’s about carrying out the law and finding someone to represent District 5,” said May.
State Sen. Fran Millar, who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Mike Jacobs and State Rep. Stacey Abrams, said the law was passed to provide relief to residents. He said that May “does not pick his replacement. Period.”
“First of all, the DeKalb delegation never wanted to do this,” Millar said. “Stacey Abrams came to us saying ‘we don’t think it’s right that the people in this district are not being represented’ so we attached the legislation to another bill to deal with it as a general bill. What we wanted to do is to make sure that the people in District 5 had a voice.”