Stonecrest drops legal action against councilwoman over absences

Stonecrest Councilwoman Jazzmin Cobble (left) at a candidates forum before she was elected in 2017. (Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)
Stonecrest Councilwoman Jazzmin Cobble (left) at a candidates forum before she was elected in 2017. (Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

A Stonecrest city councilwoman will not lose her seat for missing two meetings.

The city said Thursday it is ending its legal attempts to clarify whether Councilwoman Jazzmin Cobble’s absences on Sept. 23 and Oct. 14 constitute removing her from office.

Last week, due to ambiguous language in the city charter, the city filed a motion in DeKalb County Superior Court asking a judge to make a ruling on whether Cobble could keep her seat. But lawyers representing Stonecrest filed a motion to dismiss the case Tuesday.

“I am glad we can now focus on the work of the people and avoid further litigation on these issues,” Cobble said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work hard for the best interest of the citizens in District 3 and for the betterment of the entire community in which my family and I live in.”

The city also tried to take out a restraining order against Cobble before the final ruling on her seat was made, though Judge Mark Anthony Scott denied that request last week.

“I did not seek to remove her from her seat,” Mayor Jason Lary said in a statement Thursday. “We sought to find out the answer to the charter regarding her missing days, which is still unanswered. As mayor and the leader of the city of Stonecrest, I have to handle pleasant and unpleasant situations. I had no choice but to seek a remedy for a council person that committed multiple absences.”

The city — which was formed in 2017 and is home to almost 54,000 people — did not provide any further explanation as to why it dismissed the case.

Some officials, including Lary, previously said Cobble’s absences may have violated the city charter, which states that a seat becomes vacant if a council member fails “to attend one-third of the regular meetings of the council in a three-month period without being excused by the council.” Stonecrest holds council meetings about once every two weeks, meaning about six every three months.

State senators on Wednesday discussed legislation that would clear up some of the ambiguity in the city’s charter surrounding absences. Under the proposed bill, presented by Sen. Emanuel Jones, Stonecrest’s charter would be amended to specify that a council member’s absence is automatically excused if it is due to a personal emergency or is related to the official’s full-time job. It also provides procedures for informing the city clerk and council about the absence. In Cobble’s case, she emailed the city clerk on both days of her absences and said she was out of town for work-related reasons.

During a meeting of the state Senate delegation from DeKalb, Jones told Cobble that “we support you 100%.” But he also said he was frustrated that legislators had to wade into the local discussion.

“We should not have to get down into the weeds to the extent that we are with these kinds of issues,” he said. He later added that the lawmakers “don’t like treating the cities like children.”

Cobble and four other council members attended the delegation meeting. The mayor did not.

Staff reporter Tyler Estep contributed to this report.

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