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Fulton County elections director's employment status remains undecided

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FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Fulton County commissioners are delaying action on a request from the Registration and Elections Board that would retain embattled former Elections Director Richard Barron through April 1.

Barron’s resignation, initially submitted Dec. 17, had been set to become effective Dec. 31.

Following an executive session at the Jan. 5 Board of Commission meeting, Vice Chair Liz Hausmann moved to approve an amended resignation which would extend Barron’s contract another three months.

Commissioner Bob Ellis seconded the motion.

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After confusion and debate among commissioners, the motion failed 3-1 with commissioners Hausmann, Ellis and Lee Morris voting in favor. Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman voted against and Chair Rob Pitts and Commissioner Natalie Hall abstained. Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr. was not present for the Wednesday vote.

Pitts and Abdur-Rahman said they were uncomfortable with the risk of a rushed hiring process prior to elections in May.

“If this person, Barron’s replacement, is not in place by April 1, then we could have a problem,” Pitts said. “Elections in Fulton County this year are going to be watched by every soul in this country because of the Senate race and the governor’s race in particular. … That’s why I think we need to be as careful and as cautious as we possibly can.”

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Abdur-Rahman said she could not support the motion because a search firm had not yet been hired to locate Barron’s replacement.

“I would be more of a proponent of this if we already had a search firm in place for a new director of elections,” Abdur-Rahman said. “We get too much of a bruised eye, people keep saying there was fraud and there was no fraud. And so we need a new elections director I am on the page with that, but to do it in such a haphazardly fashion, you are not solving the problem.”

Hausmann and Ellis countered that they saw the action simply as a matter of policy and said they wanted to fulfill the wishes of the Registration and Elections Board members.

“The reason that we are having to take this action is because of some personnel regulations that require, apparently, that the Board of Commissioners accept the resignation of this individual,” Hausmann said. “This has been a situation that has gone on far too long and we have spent a lot of time on it, and for the good of the department and at the request of the chair of the board to honor the letter, that is what we’re doing today.”

After confirming with County Attorney Y. Soo Jo that commissioners could take up discussion of the motion at the next meeting even if the motion failed at the Jan. 5 meeting, commissioners took their vote.

Commissioners will likely take up the discussion at their next planned meeting Jan. 19, where they are scheduled to hear a report from the County Manager Dick Anderson regarding elections and election contracts.

Reach Sydney Dangremond at 770-847-7404. Follow her on Twitter @syddang_.

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