Accusations begin to fly in special election for Stonecrest mayor

Michael Fayoyin, left, holds signs that read, "Stonecrest Council is Corrupt!!" during the news conference held by mayoral candidates Diane Adoma (center) and Kirby Frazier (right).

Credit: Zachary Hansen

Credit: Zachary Hansen

Michael Fayoyin, left, holds signs that read, "Stonecrest Council is Corrupt!!" during the news conference held by mayoral candidates Diane Adoma (center) and Kirby Frazier (right).

Four candidates are running to become the next mayor of Stonecrest, but three of them teamed up Thursday morning to allege that their opponent is abusing her position as a recent councilmember.

At a Thursday news conference, Diane Adoma and Kirby Frazier accused Jazzmin Cobble, who resigned her council seat last month to enter the mayoral race, of continuing to use her city email and connections to benefit her campaign. Charles Hill Sr., who is also running for mayor, was not able to attend the news conference but was listed in solidarity with Adoma and Frazier.

Cobble denies the accusations and said the three candidates are “pulling at straws” to find a scandal. Adoma, the primary speaker Thursday, said she was confident that Cobble is being given an unfair benefit by city leaders.

“Stonecrest is at a crossroads,” Adoma said during the news conference. “And in order for us to be the city that we need to be, we need to elect someone who will be ethical, who will be transparent and who will hold themselves accountable.”

The mayoral candidates stood Thursday morning in front of City Hall alongside signs that read, “Stonecrest Council is Corrupt!!” Adoma and Frazier alleged the four-member City Council is allowing Cobble to benefit from her prior position without consequence.

In an emailed statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the council said they’ll investigate.

“We are reviewing the allegations and our ordinances to determine whether any violations have taken place,” the statement said. “We will reply to the substance of the claims as quickly as we can.”

The accusations

The four candidates are vying to replace Jason Lary, the city’s founding mayor who resigned in January to plead guilty to federal fraud charges. He will be sentenced May 2. His term was set to expire at the end of 2023, so a special election is scheduled for May 24 to fill the rest of his term.

Cobble resigned her District 3 council post after qualifying for the election in early March. However, her opponents accuse her of continuing to use her city email, holding campaign events on city property and remaining as the chair of a city finance committee. They provided a list of alleged violations to media outlets.

Adoma said the complaints have been presented to city staff but were not formally submitted to the DeKalb Board of Registration and Elections, which runs Stonecrest’s elections. Frazier said the appearance of potential impropriety should be a red flag for voters, especially after the actions of the city’s last mayor.

“I’m actually here to ensure that we restore the ethics in the city of Stonecrest,” Frazier said during the news conference. “I’m here to restore the faith of the people.”

Cobble, during a call with the AJC, refuted each accusation, saying she did nothing improper. She said she no longer uses her city email and that the email cited in the documents provided to media outlets was from her campaign website, not from city email servers. She added that it was to inform residents about a city work session, not to promote her campaign.

She also said city committees are often chaired by citizens.

“The finance committee, like many other committees in the city, are chaired by private citizens because they are citizen committees,” Cobble said. “I am a citizen of Stonecrest, with or without an elected title.”

A pattern of heated campaigns

Stonecrest elections have rarely been a drama-free affair.

During the city’s first mayoral election in 2017, news reports from the time document a campaign flyer that claimed one of the candidates was diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses. The flyer targeted then-mayoral candidate Charles Hill Jr., the son of current candidate Charles Hill Sr., and appeared to support Lary.

Attack flyers also popped up last November, when Cobble and Councilwoman Tammy Grimes were running for reelection. The flyers blamed the two councilwomen, often opponents of Lary’s administration, for the city’s infighting and legal issues.

In 2019 when Lary was running for reelection, Adoma stepped up to challenge him. She was a District 5 councilmember at the time and tried to retain her seat after qualifying, despite that violating the city charter. The incident led to an odd council meeting where Adoma tried to participate and vote like normal despite having been forced to resign, and the city later took out a restraining order against her.

On Thursday, Adoma said she was cut off from City Hall during the 2019 election, and she said the same should be done to Cobble.

“When I resigned from my seat, they threw my picture in the garbage right away,” Adoma said. “They took my computer, they took my keys, they took my access, they took my cellphone immediately the minute I signed the paperwork to run for office.”

Cobble said the mud-flinging is history repeating itself and that Stonecrest residents are tired of the constant drama during campaign seasons.

“This is behavior that I think is similar to what we’ve seen in the past, and it’s behavior that we as a community are trying to move past and get away from,” she said.