Fulton Commissioner Sues Commissioners over Agenda Item Access
(APN) ATLANTA – Fulton County Commissioner Khadihah Abdur-Rahman (District 6) is suing the other six Fulton County Commissioners seeking to enjoin them from continuing to block her ability to introduce agenda items for consideration at meetings of the Commission.
Abdur-Rahman v. Arrington, Jr. et al, 2022CV364892, was filed on May 18, 2022 and is pending in Fulton County Superior Court before Judge Rachelle L. Carnesdale.
“The Defendants have filed an ethics complaint against the Plaintiff attempting to stop her from speaking on behalf of the citizens of Fulton County concerning matters of public concerns at the Fulton County Board of Commissioners Meeting,” the complaint, a copy of which was obtained by Atlanta Progressive News, says.
“In addition, Defendants have removed items placed on the Commissioners’ Agenda by the Plaintiff to prevent most matters from being discussed publicly in a meeting of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners,” the complaint says.
“The issues that Plaintiff intends to present… involve the failure of Fulton County to comply with duties of Fulton County concerning sidewalks, retention ponds, and monies owed by Fulton County under legal obligations owed to the City of South Fulton, Fulton County,” the complaint says.
“This action by the Defendants violates the Freedom of Speech given to the Plaintiff by the Georgia Constitution and interferes with her lawful conduct in the exercise of her office protecting the interest of the people of Fulton County, Georgia,” the complaint says.
“The conduct of the Defendants violates their oath of office and is wrongful in that it amounts to unauthorized restraint of speech contrary to the laws of the State of Georgia,” the complaint says.
If the allegations are true, they appear to be a violation of the Code of Ordinances of Fulton County, APN can reveal based on our review of the County’s online code on municode.com .
Sec. 101-66 of the Code states that the Agenda preparation procedure is as follows: “Any commissioner wishing to place an item on the agenda may do so and should submit a memorandum to the clerk stating the item to be placed on the agenda. Any supporting documents germane to the item should also be submitted.”
Therefore, if Fulton Commissioners voted to remove items from an agenda they appear to have violated their own rules and discriminated against Commissioner Abdur-Rahman on the basis of the content of her speech.
In other words, it is not as if the agenda is controlled by the discretion of the chair. Any commissioner is allowed to introduce agenda items; only not Commissioner Abdur-Rahman.
It is not clear whether the Commissioners have yet been served with the lawsuit.
LONG-STANDING CONFLICT BETWEEN COMMISSIONERS
Commissioner Abdur-Rahman made it clear that she would not be going along to get along with the incumbent Commissioners since she last ran for the seat in 2020.
In public comments during the election, Commissioner Abdur-Rahman decried the Commission’s effort to take her off the ballot, insisting that she lives in her district.
Abdur-Rahman was elected in 2020, defeating then-incumbent Joe Carn (District 6), who won in a Special Election following the passing of Commissioner Emma Darnell (District 6).
Once elected, with no love to be lost, things quickly progressed downhill.
During redistricting, the Commissioners left Abdur-Rahman out of the redistricting process, Abdur-Rahman testified to the Georgia House Governmental Affairs Redistricting & Elections Subcommittee on February 08, 2022.
At one point, the Commissioners submitted to her a draft map that would have drawn her out of her own district.
In the end, the Fulton County Commission failed to send a map to the General Assembly meeting all the legal requirements on time.
The Fulton County House Delegation, including the chair David Dreyer (D-Atlanta); and several Fulton Commissioners testified before the House Governmental Affairs Redistricting & Elections Subcommittee on February 08, 2022, in opposition to Rep. Mainor’s map.
Abdur-Rahman testified in favor of the map.
Now, in the 2022 General Election season, two of Adbur-Rahman’s staffers are running for seats on the Commission, challenging incumbents.
Robert H. Kelly, her chief of staff, is running for the District 5 seat currently held by Commissioner Marvin Arrington, Jr.
Rick Blalock, her part time communications director, is running for the District 1 seat currently held by Commissioner Liz Hausmann.
Hausmann is not running for reelection; she is running for the Republican nomination for State Senate District 14.
Incumbent State Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White) is running for the Republican nomination for Labor Commissioner.
On March 16, 2022, the Commissioners attempted to block Kelly and Blalock’s candidacies by passing an ordinance, introduced by Commissioner Hausmann, saying that Fulton County employees could not run for seats on the Commission.
On March 18, 2022, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Emily K. Richardson ruled in favor of Kelly and Blalock, stating that they could continue to run and ordered them placed on paid administrative leave with Fulton County while the case is being resolved.
Attorney David Betts is the attorney in both actions.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2022)