Councilman Philip Goldstein (from left), councilman Johnny Walker, and Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin discuss the pension plan during a Marietta City Council special meeting on Wednesday. The city’s pension plan withheld benefits from Janet Cosper when her husband, longtime city administrator Hal Cosper, died. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM
Photo: Curtis Compton
Photo: Curtis Compton

The scoop on Thursday, March 31: 5 things to know this morning

Marietta is considering revising its pension plan to protect the families of employees who die before retirement. In a meeting of the City Council Wednesday, Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin instructed the city’s pension board to study the lack of survivor benefits in the current plan and return to the council with recommendations. Discussion of the pension plan was prompted by my earlier AJC Watchdog columns on Hal Cosper and his wife, Janet. Hal, the city’s top building official, died last July, just a few months before his planned retirement. Despite having given more than 20 years of work to the city, Janet discovered she would not receive her husband’s pension because the city’s plan did not offer a survivor’s benefit for employees who died while their were still working. Read more. 

2. Emory dust-up over Trump 'chalking' continues. 

Buffeted by international ridicule over its handling of an incident involving chalked messages on campus, Emory University is getting squeezed between students who want speech free and others who want it to feel safe.The messages scribbled on campus last week included a name and the number 2016, and would surely have gone unnoticed if the name hadn’t belonged to Donald Trump. A protest ensued, with minority students saying they felt targeted. University President James Wagner reacted with an email that pledged to provide a “safe environment.” And Facebook and other social media sites took it from there, as Emory became a punchline for news outlets across the country, and even outside of it. Read more. 

3. Wife of man in hot car death finalizes divorce, prepares to testify. 

When Leanna Harris announced her intention to seek a divorce from her husband of nearly 10 years, she told friends it was time to move on. But that will not be easy for the now-ex-wife of Ross Harris, even after the couple’s divorce was finalized earlier this week in Cobb County Superior Court. On April 11, jury selection is to begin in the trial of Ross Harris, accused of intentionally leaving his 22-month-old son Cooper inside a hot car to die. His former wife, who now goes by her maiden name, Leanna Taylor, has been subpoenaed by the prosecution to testify, her attorney, Lawrence Zimmerman, confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday. Read more. 

4. Murderer Joshua Bishop moves closer to execution. 

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles did not decide Wednesday whether to deny or honor Joshua Bishop’s plea that he be spared the lethal injection scheduled for Thursday evening. The board announced it was delaying its decision just 25 hours before Bishop is scheduled to be executed for the 1994 Baldwin County murder of Leverette Morrison. The board’s options are to commute Bishop’s sentence to life without parole, deny clemency or approve a 90-day stay so it could have more time to consider the arguments from both sides. Bishop’s other remaining hope lies with the courts. If Bishop is executed, he will be the third person Georgia has put to death by lethal injection this year. Another murderer, Kenneth Fults, is scheduled to be executed April 12 for the 1996 murder of his 19-year-old neighbor in Griffin. Read more

5. Road striping problems to be fixed on metro Atlanta interstates. 

The manufacturer of pavement marking tape that has peeled up on interstates around metro Atlanta said it will repair damaged areas at no cost to taxpayers and retrain workers to avoid future occurrences. At the same time, Georgia Department of Transportation is embarking on an aggressive plan to spruce up pavement markings as part of a stepped-up road maintenance plan for the entire state. The combined efforts address numerous complaints from drivers about peeling highway stripes and painted lines on the roadway that are so worn or ragged, they’re no longer reflective and are hard to see. Read more. 

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