Clayton commissioners set to take controversial action Tuesday

Clayton County commissioners will decide Tuesday whether to bring back a retired government administrator to fill the job of the chief operating officer who was recently fired.

The decision to rehire former chief of staff Alex Cohilas comes on election night when the county learns the fate of a critical vote to join MARTA. The commissioners were originally scheduled to deal with the Cohilas matter at the Nov. 18 meeting but Commissioner Michael Edmondson had the item moved to Tuesday’s agenda, chairman Jeff Turner told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday.

The contract with Cohilas would be for six months - the length of time former COO Arrelle Anderson had left on her contract, according to Turner’s understanding. Anderson was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the county and oversaw its two dozen departments.

“If there was a problem with Ms. Anderson, why couldn’t they just leave her in place for six months and not renew her contract?” Turner said,”That would have given us ample time to find a replacement.” Turner has said he wants to see a national search conducted to permanently fill the job.

One community activist called the action an attempt to “blindside us.”

“That’s their night to do the most damage. They can pass it with little or no emotions as it is a night where many people in the community won’t be there,” said Rev. Jeff Benoit, president of the Clayton-Henry chaper of National Action Network, a civil rights and human rights group. “It’s really an obvious attempt to change the structure of Clayton County government.”

Anderson was abruptly fired last month without cause in a 3-2 vote by the board. The three commissioners who voted to dismiss her - Edmondson, Gail Hambrick and Sonna Singleton - have yet to say why they fired Anderson. Hambrick has declined to talk about the matter and Efforts to reach the other two have been unsuccessful.

As chief of staff, Cohilas ran the daily operations of the county under former chairman Eldrin Bell. During that time, Cohilas was part of an effort to remove Turner as Clayton police chief due to mismanagement. Those charges were later proved to be unfounded but Turner has not forgotten the issue.

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