Avondale Estates Candidates Forum scheduled for Monday

Clai Brown (l) and Jonathan Elmore during Brown’s final days as Avondale Estates’ city manager. The two are now running against each other for mayor. Bill Banks file photo for the AJC.

Avondale Estates holds its one and only Candidates Forum, 5:45 p.m.-9:15 p.m., Oct. 7 at First Baptist Church Avondale Estates in the Family Life Center, 47 Covington Road in Avondale.

The highlight is the one-on-one mayoral showdown between Clai Brown and incumbent Jonathan Elmore, a race becoming increasingly complex and ugly.

Brown was city manager for 10 years before resigning in Feb. 2018. He told the AJC last July that he resigned because the city’s Board of Mayor and Commissioners was interfering with staff business. “Three members on the board (Elmore and Commissioners Brian Fisher and Adela Yelton), that’s the reason I left.”

Elmore and Fisher have both emphatically denied any interference. Further, as a July 9 AJC article pointed out, it’s very rare for a former city manager to run for mayor in the city he served, a practice definitely frowned on by the Washington DC-based International City/County Management Association.

Both these issues, however, are sure to get eclipsed Monday by questions regarding Brown’s severance package. That settlement would’ve paid him $317,408.17, or about 9 percent of the city’s projected 2018 budget, even if he resigned or was fired with cause (he wound up settling for much less in Feb. 2018).

Brown’s contract was re-approved twice by a board that included Elmore, Fisher and Yelton. But Elmore has always claimed that neither he nor the other commissioners ever saw or knew about the severance package.

Besides the mayoral race four have qualified for commission: Mayor Pro Tem Fisher, Marguerite Belline, Candace Jones and Dee Merriam, with the top two vote getters winning seats. Incumbent Yelton has declined to run again.

The forum will give residents plenty of time to ask all candidates questions. It gets broken into two segments, with the commissioner forum running from 6 to 7:30, and mayoral forum from 7:45-9:15.

Elmore was initially elected mayor in March 2015, beating five other candidates, then ran unopposed the following November. Fisher was first elected in Nov. 2015, while Jones and Merriam are longtime city activists. Belline, an attorney with a downtown Avondale office, has lived in the city since 2014.

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