OPINION: Clayton pol’s story is under the influence of absurdity

There’s a maxim in life that certainly transcends to politics: Sometimes you’ve just got to own it.

There’s also another: When in doubt, keep your lip zipped.

Either one of these rules for engagement would have well served Clayton County Commissioner Felicia Franklin, who was this week sanctioned by her fellow board members. Franklin’s colleagues unanimously voted to remove her as the board’s vice-chair because of actions “unbecoming of the position.”

Franklin’s unhappy story started Sept. 29 when she was found unconscious on the sidewalk outside a tavern at Southlake Mall.

A police officer noticed she had fallen off a bench and, unable to wake her, called for an ambulance to come and take her vitals. He was concerned she might have struck her head on the concrete and suffered a concussion.

A representative from the bar whispered to police that she was somebody influential and told them he could get her a ride home. The fellow obviously was concerned about her, as well as the drama to his fledgling business.

I might note that drama has followed Commissioner Franklin on an often-fractious board that has more side stories than the HBO series “Succession.” There have been political charges, counter-charges, a lawsuit, ethics complaints — all the ingredients for government going sideways.

A police officer tries to pick Clayton County Commissioner Felicia Franklin from the pavement after finding her outside a sports bar.

Credit: Police video

icon to expand image

Credit: Police video

As medics loaded Franklin onto a gurney and then into the ambulance, the commissioner muttered, screamed, thrashed and refused to listen to repeated, and patient, requests for them to take her vital signs. It’s an ugly hour of body-cam video.

A friend arrived and tried without success to calm Franklin down before she was taken to Southern Regional Medical Center. The friend told officers Franklin had been suffering from severe bronchitis for two weeks and had been taking drugs, including prednisone, a corticosteroid.

In Franklin’s defense, there is something called “steroid-induced psychosis,” which might have provided an explanation, especially if mixed with alcohol. But she didn’t use that as her defense.

Instead, Franklin went on Facebook to allege someone slipped her a Mickey.

“It is believed by medical professionals that I was drugged with a GHB pill, more commonly known as the ‘date rape pill,’ and this incident has shaken me to my core, “ she wrote, adding, “I will be working closely with authorities to ensure that justice is served, and I will also be advocating for improved safety measures at events like these.”

A couple days later, Franklin was at the Morrow PD telling a detective, according to the videotape, that she went to the 404 Sports Bar & Grill to watch a band, had a glass of wine and half a drink. Suddenly, she felt strange, so she decided to leave. After leaving, “it was like my body went out.”

Next thing she knows, she’s in the hospital.

The owner of the sports bar, no doubt disturbed by the allegations, quickly turned over video to Morrow police, as well as her receipt. The police report said the owner said “his establishment has been tarnished by this allegation by Ms. Franklin.”

A Morrow detective shows Clayton County Commissioner Felicia Franklin video of her getting drinks at a sports bar.

Credit: Police video

icon to expand image

Credit: Police video

After listening to Franklin, the detective said, “I want to be blunt, you had five drinks.”

“You saw them serve me five drinks?” Franklin responded.

“I counted them,” the cop said.

The commissioner turned to an aide who came with her and said, “This is a setup, this is so unfair.”

The cop then showed her the tape.

According to the cop’s rendition, backed up by the bar’s security footage, Franklin ordered four drinks and was later seen sipping on a beer. One was a “9-ounce pour of wine” — in essence, two glasses worth — followed by three “home runs,” a drink made from two ounces of Hennessy cognac and a half shot of Grand Marnier.

If one adds up the booze count, you’re talking about 10 units of alcohol in two-and-a-half hours.

Franklin insisted she drank nowhere near that amount.

She told the investigator a doctor said “my behavior was consistent with GHB,” the so-called date-rape drug.

Then why didn’t they test for that? asked the incredulous detective.

“It’s Southern Regional, let’s be real,” she responded with disdain.

The police checked and it turns out it was she who refused a blood test. But a urine test showed cannabis in her system.

Police in their report concluded, “There is no evidence to support the claim of Ms. Franklin having something put in her drink.”

However, she insists police have not proven that she wasn’t drugged. Proving a negative is always tough. Franklin did not respond to requests for comment.

I know all this is embarrassing, but if Franklin didn’t go to Facebook with her allegations, this would not have gone public.

I heard the Clayton County gossip vine was tingling with the stories of Franklin’s behavior outside the bar. But she could have stayed silent or even plead a mea culpa, saying a little alcohol and some sinus medications knocked her for a loop. You know, things happen.

But it’s always better to be someone else’s fault.

What’s next? Well, Franklin has announced she’s running to be the County Commission Chairman next year.

Things are about to get crazier in Clayton.

Related

Credit: Chris Day

Clayton Commission facing lawsuits after internal conflicts get personal
Both suits come as Clayton County officials have dominated recent news cycles because of criminal legal proceedings.