A DeKalb County city is seeking a restraining order against a city councilmember after she launched a run for mayor and tried to retain her elected position.
It was a bizarre scene at this week’s Stonecrest City Council meeting after Diane Adoma showed up at City Hall and attempted to participate, despite a state law that city officials say removed her from office immediately upon qualifying for the upcoming election. Although she took her usual seat at the council meeting, her nameplate had been removed and she was mostly ignored by city staff and the other officials. She also tried to vote on some measures, but her votes were not counted.
Friday, Adoma turned in the paperwork to run for mayor, challenging incumbent Mayor Jason Lary in the November election.
“The (city) clerk asked for my keys, my computer, and my phone. And I told her I wasn’t vacating my seat,” Adoma said in a recent interview. “Immediately, they deactivated my official city email and my official city phone.”
In a statement, the city said it was simply following the Georgia Constitution, which states that if an elected official seeks another office — and the term for that office starts more than 30 days before the term of the current office would end — then the office should be immediately declared vacant.
Adoma, elected in 2017 to represent District 5 in Stonecrest, would have roughly two more years left on her term. But, she wants to continue serving as a councilmember through the Nov. 5 election.
“I was concerned about my constituents being unrepresented,” she said.
Many cities, including Stonecrest, have staggered City Council elections. Some run in line with the mayor’s term, while others are on off-years. In Doraville, a city councilman who serves on an odd term is also running for mayor. That councilman, Joseph Geierman, resigned on his own several weeks ago, before formally qualifying to be on the ballot for mayor.
Since Friday, Adoma’s picture in City Hall was taken down, and her profile was removed from the city’s website.
She launched a legal challenge against the constitutional law on Monday, claiming she was unlawfully removed from office. The law, she said, is unclear over what it means to “qualify” for office.
Representing herself, Adoma filed for an emergency injunction in DeKalb County Superior Court requesting that she be able to keep her City Council seat while running for mayor. Judge Mark Anthony Scott denied the motion Monday.
That evening, however, Adoma still tried to take part in the City Council meeting.
“When I went up on the dias, my name was gone, my chair was gone, my microphone was gone,” she said. “I asked the clerk for an agenda, and they totally ignored me.”
The city is now waiting for a judge to sign off on a restraining order against Adoma, Stonecrest spokesman Adrion Bell said. The restraining order will “prohibit her from accessing areas such as the council chambers dais and the executive session chambers as she did on Monday,” Bell said. “We are taking these steps to ensure the safety of our staff and the orderly, legal fashion in which our meetings should be conducted.”
Adoma said the manner through which the city removed her from office was targeted and "cruel." She and the mayor are somewhat of political rivals, and have sparred in the past over a variety of city issues.
“I couldn’t even tell people, ‘Don’t contact this email anymore,’” she said, arguing that she should have at least been able to get her affairs in order.
Bell, however, said the city was acting in accordance with state law.
“The city did not remove Ms. Adoma from her seat, Ms. Adoma removed herself by qualifying to run for office when her council term was not at its end as described in the law,” he said. “No formal resignation is needed.”
Meanwhile, the city has called for a special election for Adoma’s seat to be held Nov. 5, the same general election day where voters will decide who will be mayor. The qualifying period for that seat is scheduled for Sept. 3-5.
Adoma, meanwhile, said she is weighing her options and considering appealing the court ruling, while she campaigns for mayor.