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Fulton board to meet in person again for first time since COVID-19 hit

Fulton County meetings will look different moving forward, but the Feb. 28 crowd inside Fulton County’s assembly hall claps for Basil Eleby as he receives his certificate of completion during the Fulton County Behavioral Health Treatment Court Transition program graduation.
Fulton County meetings will look different moving forward, but the Feb. 28 crowd inside Fulton County’s assembly hall claps for Basil Eleby as he receives his certificate of completion during the Fulton County Behavioral Health Treatment Court Transition program graduation.

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

The plum-colored rows of chairs have been devoid of impassioned residents waiting to speak. The seafoam carpet has had no staff scurrying across to deliver still-warm printouts. No one’s been out of order.

The assembly hall at 141 Pryor St. last hosted a Fulton County Board of Commissioners meeting on March 4. When COVID-19 disrupted life, meetings turned digital. But on Wednesday, breaking the 105-day dry streak, commissioners are set to meet again inside the assembly hall.

At their last Zoom meeting on June 3, commissioners agreed it would send a good message for them to meet in person — considering staff are coming back to their posts and some of the county’s 4,000 workers never left.

County leaders said they have ensured safety and distancing, but didn’t detail how it’ll all work.

However it happens, the agenda for Wednesday's meeting includes an update on the rough election season and discussion of adding enhanced sentencing in instances of hate crimes.


READ | Pitts names members of Fulton task force to examine rough election


Commissioner Liz Hausmann requested an update on the elections. In the past, she, like every other commissioner, was critical of how the elections went. The county is under investigation by the state, and Fulton reviewing its own processes to get better ahead of the August runoff and November general election.

Commissioner Bob Ellis is proposing a hate crimes bill that would give guidance to the county’s three law enforcement agencies: Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, the Fulton County Marshal and the Fulton County Police.

The sheriff’s office runs the jail, the marshals serve warrants and the police handle the 7.5 miles of unincorporated Fulton that remain after the cityhood movement.

Under Ellis’ proposed legislation, those charged with a hate crime would get up to 60 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

“As a nation, state and county, we have witnessed the tragic and horrific impact of police brutality and abuse by certain law enforcement personnel. This has understandably led many to question their trust in officers. Certainly, legislation at the state and federal level regarding policing reform is important, but discussions and work at the local level are key in ensuring effective and quality community policing,” he wrote in a news release.

The proposal spells out that no one can be discriminated against for their "actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, gender, physical or mental disability, or national origin."


READ | Fulton denies $23M COVID-19 jail isolation units amid protests


“I also expect the Board to review current and future accountability and transparency measures necessary to further foster trust, so that faith and respect can be restored with Fulton citizens,” Ellis wrote.

Cobb County leaders had a a heated back-and-forth, but earlier this month eventually passed a resolution condemning racism and another urging state lawmakers to pass new hate crime legislation. The topic has long history at the state level, but there's a renewed push for one this year. Georgia is one of the four states without a hate crimes law.

Fulton’s meeting begins at 10 a.m. on Wednesday inside the assembly hall. But people shouldn’t get too used to the assembly hall. The room will host only Wednesday’s meeting and the board’s sole July meeting, July 8, before closing for renovation. After July, meetings will take place in a conference room on the third floor.

Voters at the Johns Creek Environmental Campus found themselves waiting upwards of 30 to 50 minutes in line Tuesday on Election Day. New voting machines were the initial cause for the long lines, but also the precinct hosts three percents in one because of Covid-19 precautions. (Video by Ryon Horne/AJC)