Fulton board makes ‘invalid’ vote to fire elections director

The Fulton County Board of Elections and Registration met Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 and improperly voted to fire the elections director. (Photo: FGTV's YouTube)

Credit: FGTV's YouTube

Credit: FGTV's YouTube

The Fulton County Board of Elections and Registration met Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 and improperly voted to fire the elections director. (Photo: FGTV's YouTube)

The Fulton County Board of Registration & Elections voted behind closed doors Thursday to fire the county’s elections chief.

The vote to oust Richard Barron, who has led Fulton’s elections since 2013, appears to have violated Georgia’s open meetings law. Chairwoman Mary Carole Cooney called the move “purely political,” and said the vote was not binding because it happened in an executive session.

Fulton spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt acknowledged the vote in a statement Friday.

“It was immediately determined that such a vote was invalid unless it occurred in open session,” Corbitt wrote in an email.

Barron is under fire eight months after he oversaw a debacle of an election in June, during which some people waited for hours in line — primarily because many voters never received mail-in ballots after Fulton’s system was overwhelmed.

But, with financial and community support, Barron and his beleaguered staff ran several steady elections through January 2021.

Barron declined to comment Friday.

Officials hold executive session to talk away from the public about sensitive issues. They are allowed for real estate transactions, pending litigation and personnel issues. But Georgia law requires that all votes of officials be taken in public.

Fulton elections supervisor Richard Barron has lead the county's elections since 2013. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

The Fulton elections board retreated into executive session for more than two hours Thursday. Trouble became apparent shortly after the board reconvened. Board member Vernetta Keith Nuriddin said: “I just wanted to know if we had to ratify in an open board meeting what we just voted on in executive session.”

Chairwoman Mary Carole Cooney said that she didn’t think so but that she would try to confirm with an attorney.

“This is a violation of the Open Records Act and it’s very disappointing that that’s happened,” said Richard T. Griffiths, president emeritus of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. He added that they never should have voted in an executive session in the first place.

“They were naughty, they realized that they had been naughty and they voided out the action to avoid getting into big trouble,” Griffiths said.

Cooney said Friday that she and Democratic board member Aaron Johnson voted for Barron to keep his job. The five-member board is comprised of a chair and two appointees from each political party.

Cooney said it was a 3-2 vote, meaning that Nuriddin — who is Johnson’s fellow Democratic board appointee — joined the two Republican appointees Dr. Kathleen Ruth and Mark Wingate in wanting to oust Barron.

When asked to explain how the vote was political, Cooney said: “This process has not been completed, so there’s nothing to say.”

The board could reconvene in a special meeting next week to vote publicly on Barron. If he is fired, that action would have to be affirmed by a majority vote of Fulton County Commission.

Credit: WSBTV Videos

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