DeKalb communications chief resigns amid police controversy

She had called Gwinnett businessman's killing by police 'murder'

The chief communications officer for DeKalb County resigned Monday, several days after she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a police officer had “murdered” her friend.

Shelia Edwards, who reported directly to DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, did not give a reason for her resignation, other than she is "contemplating returning to the private sector," according to a letter obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Her resignation will take effect Friday.

Edwards, who made $138,000, oversaw all public relations and the county’s television station. She started when Ellis took office in January 2009.

Edwards has not returned multiple e-mails and phone calls left Saturday, Sunday and Monday at her home and office or on her personal cellphone.

Ellis did not return phone calls but issued a statement calling Edwards a “loyal and dedicated employee.”

Officials declined to comment on reports that Edwards was forced out. The AJC reported last week that Edwards was representing the family of Credit Union of Atlanta CEO DeFarra "Dean" Gaymon, who was killed by police in New Jersey.

After questions from the AJC, Edwards wrote that the officer “murdered” Gaymon. Gaymon’s shooting remains under investigation and no charges have been filed.

“Dean Gaymon was a college classmate and a close personal friend of over 30 years," Edwards wrote. “His family has been a part of my family since the 80s. We are all traumatized by [his] murder.”

Edwards said she was volunteering to serve as the spokeswoman for Gaymon’s family.

DeKalb officers complained that it was a conflict of interest because Edwards routinely speaks on behalf of police, including talking to the media about officer-involved shootings.

Prosecutors in Essex County, N.J., said Gaymon, who was in New Jersey for a high school reunion, solicited sex from an undercover officer in a park. He then attacked and threatened the officer, prosecutors said.

The case has since been referred to a grand jury in Essex County, officials said.

It is unclear whether Edwards got approval from Ellis to represent the Gaymon family.

In her resignation letter, Edwards said DeKalb has “some of the finest officers who are well-trained and are highly effective.”

Jeff Wiggs, president of the DeKalb Fraternal Order of Police, declined to comment Monday.

Edwards had been under fire in the past, including a well-publicized fight with a CBS 46 reporter that was aired on television. At the time, commissioners complained that Edwards was inappropriate.

Burke Brennan, an economic development worker and former communications director for then county CEO Vernon Jones, will serve as interim communications chief.