SECURITY DETAILS FOR SOME OF METRO ATLANTA'S TOP BOSSES:
Here’s a look at who among metro Atlanta’s five core counties and the city of Atlanta has a security entourage.
MUNICIPALITY /POPULATION* /SECURITY FOR TOP ELECTED OFFICIAL
Atlanta: 447,841 /Yes
Clayton: 264,220/ Yes
Cobb: 717,190 /No
DeKalb:** 713,340/ Yes
Fulton: 984,293/ No
Gwinnett: 859,304/ No
* United States Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau 2013 estimate.
**DeKalb has a chief executive officer form of government, with an executive branch that’s separate from the county commission. There is no DeKalb Commission chairman, though there is a presiding officer with limited powers to set the agenda. Clayton, Fulton, Gwinnett and Cobb have a commission with a chairman rather than a CEO.
Source: The municipalities.
Shortly after Jeff Turner took office two years ago this month as chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commission, a security detail was formed.
Since then, nearly $340,000 has been spent to pay a group of police officers whose duties include providing security for Clayton’s top elected official and for the county’s other commissioners, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned. The five-member security unit — which has been scaled down to three officers — marks the first time the head of Clayton government has been provided a security detail.
While the service is available to all commissioners, Turner is the only commissioner who has consistently requested security while conducting county business. That makes him the only commission chairman in the five core metro Atlanta counties that has or uses a security detail regularly. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and DeKalb CEO Lee May, elected as the executive branch in those governments, are provided security.
Turner and Clayton Police Chief Greg Porter disagree over who decided a security detail was necessary. Turner says Porter recommended security. Porter says Turner asked for it.
Turner and Porter’s disagreement over other security matters became public last month when the AJC obtained an internal memo from Porter to the board of commissioners and chief operating officer Alex Cohilas complaining about Turner making demands to upgrade his security. In the Nov. 17 memo, Porter said Turner asked for new vehicles and equipment for the security detail at a time when the police department’s budget was tight. Turner has denied making the demands and an investigation is underway into other allegations in the memo, where Porter also alleges Turner was micromanaging him and threatening his job.
Turner said there haven’t been significant threats to his safety that make security essential.
“It’s not that I needed security detail. The security detail is (assigned to) the Board of Commissioners and the administrative building,” Turner told AJC. “They’re there for any commissioner that needs their services.”
Turner’s predecessor, Eldrin Bell, said Wednesday he never felt threatened. Three other commissioners said they have never requested security. The fourth commissioner did not respond to an AJC request for his security history.
“I had a driver who also served as my assistant,” Bell said. “But I never felt I needed any security. It’s always a personal decision based on the circumstances.”
Some question whether the security detail is a misuse of limited police resources.
“If they’re with the commission, it takes them off the streets where they could be crime-fighting,” said Dr. Henry Anderson who lives in unincorporated Clayton County and regularly attends commission meetings.
Others think there is a need for security, especially for Turner. In 2009, Turner was removed as the county’s police chief during a department power struggle. Rosa Barbee, founder of Georgia Active Support Group, said officers involved might still hold grudges.
“As a taxpayer, I don’t mind him having some kind of security in the beginning, given the history that he had when he was police chief,” Barbee said. “(Chief Greg) Porter is one of them not liking him.”
Porter was deputy chief under Turner until Turner was removed as police chief following an investigation conducted by then-chief of staff Cohilas. Porter became chief in 2010.
Turner said he rarely uses the security detail now. The security detail is assigned to the administration/commission building also is responsible for money transfers from the facility, security assessments of other county facilities and the school district’s crossing guard program.
Prior to last month, Turner used the security detail about two or three times a week, police officials said. Now the detail is primarily used for security at commission meetings, said Clayton County Police Capt. Richard Godfrey said. Currently, there’s an unmarked 2008 Ford Crown Victoria assigned to the security detail at the commissioners’ facility, he said.