DeKalb officials will quiz commission candidates

Five candidates seeking to represent southeast DeKalb will be interviewed Tuesday:

  • Markus Butts, a DeKalb planning commissioner and manager in the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management.
  • Gina Smith Mangham, an attorney who ran against May in the 2012 election for the southeast DeKalb seat.
  • Kathryn Rice, the leader of the movement to form a city of Greenhaven in South DeKalb and the founder of the South DeKalb Improvement Association.
  • Kenneth Saunders III, a member of the Parks Bond Advisory Committee and a former member of the DeKalb Community Council.
  • George Turner, president of the District 5 Community Council and a retired MARTA manager.

Five candidates seeking to represent southeast DeKalb residents will go through a public, live-streamed interview process Tuesday in an effort to end a standoff over the area’s lack of a county commissioner.

The DeKalb Commission is trying to resolve the impasse that has left one-fifth of the county’s residents - about 140,000 people - without a commissioner for more than 19 months since Gov. Nathan Deal appointed then-Commissioner Lee May to lead the county while criminal charges are pending against suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.

Each of the candidates, nominated by sitting commissioners from a list of 20 applicants last summer, will undergo questioning to determine why they should get the job. The commission could vote on a candidate as soon as Tuesday, but it’s more likely that they’ll take action next week.

The public nature of the process puts pressure on the commission to resolve its stalemate and give residents representation.

“We’re going to have it as open and transparent as we possibly can so we can get someone in that seat,” said Commissioner Larry Johnson, the board’s presiding officer.

An election can’t be held to pick a commissioner for the southeast DeKalb seat because May was elected to that post and hasn’t resigned it, leaving the decision in the hands of the six remaining commissioners from across the county.

Commissioners rejected two of May’s nominees last month so that they could take sole control of the selection, as outlined under state law.

Several commissioners opposed May’s first nominee, involved community member George Turner, because they didn’t want May choosing his own successor. Then last week, the commission and May voted down his second nominee, Greenhaven cityhood leader Kathryn Rice, so the commission could handle the process.

The candidate chosen for the job would serve as a temporary commissioner at least until the charges against Ellis are resolved. Prosecutors have accused Ellis of extorting campaign contributions from county contractors, and his retrial is scheduled for June 1.

How to watch

The DeKalb County Commission plans to interview five candidates to represent the southeastern part of the county Tuesday. The interviews will begin after the commission's regularly scheduled Committee of the Whole meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. The meeting and interviews will also be live-streamed online at http://www.dekalbcountyga.gov/dctv/.