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DeKalb CEO position won't be abolished

An effort to eliminate DeKalb County’s powerful CEO position died in the Georgia General Assembly on Thursday without receiving a final vote.

The Georgia House of Representatives declined to consider the measure on the last day of this year’s lawmaking session after hearing objections from legislators who said it was being hastily pushed through.

The legislation, Senate Bill 378, called for the CEO job to cease to exist in 2019 and be replaced by a politically weak county commission chairman. The 6,000-employee government would have been run by a county manager who would have answered to the County Commission.

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, said a citizen-led charter review commission should review DeKalb’s form of government before voters are asked about whether they want to abolish the CEO role.

“It’s putting the cart well in front of the horse,” Abrams said during a House Rules Committee meeting Thursday.

State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, sponsored the bill and said it was necessary to achieve reform in DeKalb. The bill passed the state Senate last month.

“Ninety percent of people in DeKalb County know there’s been problems with that position,” Millar said in a committee hearing earlier this month.

The charter review commission measure, Senate Bill 421, also didn’t pass before the end of this year’s legislative session.

DeKalb is the only county in Georgia with an elected chief executive who is in charge of the executive branch of county government. Most other counties have an unelected county manager or administrator who manages government operations.

DeKalb’s CEO position has been blamed for many of the county’s corruption problems.

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis was convicted last year on charges of attempted extortion and perjury, and he was recently released from prison after eight months.

Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May, who replaced Ellis as the county’s leader in July 2013, faced calls to resign last year from special investigators he hired. May said the investigators’ allegations were baseless.

Both Gov. Nathan Deal and May have said they supported eliminating the CEO position.

DeKalb instituted the CEO form of government after voters approved it in 1982.

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