Fulton bars future employees from running for commission

People explore the new assembly hall at a ribbon cutting celebrating the new assembly hall and renovations at the Fulton County government building in Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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People explore the new assembly hall at a ribbon cutting celebrating the new assembly hall and renovations at the Fulton County government building in Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Fulton County Commission voted Wednesday to block any county employee from keeping their jobs while running for a seat on the county commission.

Commissioners in March passed a law they thought would bar two members of Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman’s staff — Rick Blalock and Robert H. Kelly — from remaining on staff while running campaigns for the county commission. Abdur-Rahman opposed that version of the law and the vote was taken when she was out of town.

Blalock and Kelly won a legal challenge and will be on ballots in May.

The new law will take effect after the 2022 election season, and so it does not apply to Blalock and Kelly.

Other governments, like the city of Atlanta, have passed similar measures to avoid conflicts of interest that could occur when employees run for office. The Fulton vote Wednesday was unanimous.

Blalock, who manages Abdur-Rahman’s communications part time at $51.36 per hour, is running for District 1 in northern Fulton. Kelly, who is Abdur-Rahman’s chief of staff at $133,750 per year, is running for southern Fulton’s District 5.

The first version of the law didn’t specify when the rule went into effect. The law sought to stop employees from running for the commission to “avoid the potential for unfair advantage, conflict of interest, impropriety, or appearance of the same.” County Attorney Y. Soo Jo had said the rule applied to the current election.

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But Senior Judge Adele Grubbs, in her searing takedown of the rule commissioners had passed, wrote that Blalock and Kelly should be allowed to run.

The law passed Wednesday specifically states that this rule only applies to future elections.

District 1 Commissioner Liz Hausmann, who is not seeking re-election as a commissioner, is behind both of the efforts. Hausmann said Wednesday this new language only had minor tweaks.

Abdur-Rahman disagreed, saying: “This should have been the language the first time around ... It required outside legal representation for something that was wrong, and it wasted taxpayer’s money.”

She added: “I will not be silent about what the first one did.”


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Fulton County's top judge appears at event announcing a crackdown on repeat offenders

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