Stogner nominated to DeKalb chief operating officer post

DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis nominated a longtime government administrator, Richard Stogner, as his chief operating officer.

Stogner, who was Ellis’ predecessor's executive assistant, must be approved by the county commission. If he is confirmed, Stogner will oversee day-to-day county operations, recommend staff to fill administrative vacancies, prepare the 2011 budget recommendations and look for ways to improve county operations.

Stogner will work without pay, at his request.

Stogner would replace Keith Barker. Ellis fired Barker earlier this month after Barker admitted to a sexual relationship with a secretary in the water department. Barker is now receiving a $100,000 severance and benefits for six months.

“I am pleased that Richard Stogner has agreed to join our management team,” Ellis said in a written statement. “In addition to his demonstrated public management expertise, his decision not to accept a salary is clear evidence of his integrity and commitment to DeKalb County. I look forward to working with him as soon as his appointment is confirmed by the commission, something which I have asked them to do as expeditiously as possible.”

Stogner has been a fixture in metro Atlanta government for more than four decades, most recently in DeKalb.

“We need a nuts and bolts guy who knows DeKalb County government, top to bottom,” said Larry Johnson, the commission’s presiding officer. “With the budget and key hiring decisions before us, I would support Richard Stogner as COO on a one-year contract, and I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners as we move ahead.”

Stogner has been a high-level official for four Atlanta mayors, Fulton County and the Atlanta Olympics.

He helped design the concessions program at Hartsfield International Airport before it opened in 1980. Stogner later said the system was supposed to insulate city officials from the pressures of concessions operators, but it failed because prospective contractors promised shares of the deal to a roster of political insiders.

He was involved in expanding that airport years later. He oversaw the renovation of Underground Atlanta in the late 1980s and he managed the 1996 Olympics' $1.75 billion budget.

Most recently, Stogner was executive assistant to former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones, who preceded Ellis.

Throughout his decades in local government, Stogner also has been at the center of controversies, sometimes in the role of mediator and sometimes as instigator.

Last spring, he was a defendant in a long-running racial discrimination lawsuit brought by former DeKalb County parks employees At the end of the 6-year-old case, a federal jury found Stogner, his then-boss Jones, the  former parks director Marilyn Boyd Drew; and the county liable for damages. The county had to pay two former parks workers $185,000 in damages plus millions in attorneys' fees to the lawyers who filed the lawsuit for the former workers and to the lawyers who defended the county. The jury said Stogner and others had created a hostile work environment.

But as a peacemaker, Stogner, when he was Fulton County’s director of planning and economic development,  negotiated the politically-charged proposal of turning over to Atlanta Fulton’s Brown Field in 1991.

At that time, he also was key in killing a major real-estate development. The proposal was for a private entity to build 800 low-and middle-income apartments on Atlanta-owed land adjacent to the Civic Center.