Some metro Atlanta governments bring new light to job interviews

“This is going to be a little different than what you’re used to seeing,” South Fulton Mayor Bill Edwards told residents at a Tuesday night city council meeting.

Behind him, on a projector screen, Odie Donald II smiled. Donald, the director of Employment Services for Washington, D.C., was about to be interviewed for a new job as the city manager in South Fulton. And audience members were going to be able to watch the whole thing.

Normally, politicians go into back rooms to talk about who they will hire and fire. But in the new city of South Fulton this week — and recently, in Clayton County — the process was brought into the public. Whether it was a move for transparency or a tactic to force the votes of reluctant members of city council, though, is a matter for debate.

Jamison Jones, a South Fulton resident at his first council meeting, said he appreciated the chance to see council’s questions and Donald’s answers.

“There should be more of that transparency,” he said. “The only thing that was missing was questions coming from the audience.”

The audience reacted to Donald’s answers, though, clapping when he said the people he would really be serving if he got the job were South Fulton’s residents — not politicians — and talked among themselves when he said, “I’m the best in the business, there’s no doubt about it.”

Khalid Kamau, a member of city council, said he was glad that residents had been able to see more of their government’s actions. But he worried that council members weren’t given enough time to prepare for the interview or deliberate about Donald’s credentials. Minutes after the Skype interview concluded, Donald was hired by a 5-2 vote.

“I feel like that was a tactic used to pressure us,” Kamau said. “It can be intense and intimidating to sit in a room with 150-plus people and hear them cheering when certain people talk.”

Kamau said the audience responses didn’t influence his vote — he voted against Donald’s appointment, saying he didn’t like the process, though he said he was eager to work with him — but he thought other council members might have debated Donald’s qualifications more vigorously if residents hadn’t been watching.

“The deliberation afterward would have been different,” he said. “People felt pressured to make a decision because the public was watching. We might not have voted that evening.”

Kamau said Donald’s resume had been distributed to council members the day before the meeting, and they only learned of the planned Skype interview minutes before the council meeting began.

In Clayton County, the process unfolded differently, though with some of the same questions.

In January, Clayton County interviewed three candidates for police chief during an open county commission meeting, a move that made some commissioners uncomfortable. As the process proceeded, some commissioners could be heard whispering their concerns about the wisdom of publicly interviewing the candidates and trying to figure out the genesis of the idea.

The process also created confusion. As the first candidate stepped up to be interviewed, the commissioners asked the other two to step out of the room. But because of open meetings laws, the county attorney told the commissioners that removing the candidates would have been unlawful and that each could stay and hear what his competitor was saying. The men ultimately decided to leave the room as the others were interviewed.

The three candidates for police chief answered three identical questions during the interview to a room of roughly 40 people. Still, commissioners did go into closed session before they voted unanimously to give the job to Kevin Roberts, then deputy chief with the Clayton Police Department. Roberts spoke directly to the small group, which was hoping to wrap things up as snow was falling outside.

“I will make my best effort to enhance the police department and make sure we take care of the needs of the citizens,” he said.

In South Fulton, there was only one candidate, the third Edwards recommended as a city manager after two other contenders elected not to take the job. Edwards said that made it urgent for a hire to be made. He has been acting as city manager since the interim city manager, Ruth Jones, left in October.

After months without a manager, Edwards said he got tired of the “back room politics” and wanted residents to see their government leaders act.

“Let’s do it in public, let’s let all our constituents see,” he said. “You don’t get no more transparent than that, do you?”

Edwards denied that the move was made to pressure anyone, saying he was on the line if council members had voted Donald down.

Kamau said he only hoped Edwards was consistent with his move toward showing the public more about how government worked.

“I hope (Donald) and the mayor will be as transparent and inclusive in developing an economic plan as they have been in this hiring process,” he said. “If we go back to executive session to discuss personnel every meeting, then we’ll know it was a stunt.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

SUNDAY’S WEATHER-TRAFFIC: Infrequent downpours lead up to holiday storm
SUNDAY’S WEATHER-TRAFFIC: Infrequent downpours lead up to holiday storm

Sunday: High: 82 Sunday night: Low: 69  Monday: High: 80 Sunday is the last day before Subtropical Storm Alberto should make landfall and rain all over Memorial Day festivities. It might be a good idea to spend time outdoors while you still can between infrequent downpours Sunday, Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Katie Walls said. Sunday...
Atlanta FBI official’s death linked to work at 9/11 scene
Atlanta FBI official’s death linked to work at 9/11 scene

The special agent in charge of the FBI’s Atlanta office died earlier today due to complications from his work responding at the World Trade Center on 9/11, the FBI said. David J. LeValley served in Atlanta since November 2016, and he had been a special agent with the FBI since 1996, according to an FBI press release. Following the 9/11 attacks...
Police seek person of interest after deadly Sandy Springs house fire
Police seek person of interest after deadly Sandy Springs house fire

Sandy Springs police are looking for a person of interest in connection with a house fire that killed one person. The person of interest is Patrick J. Nolan, 43, police said in a news release. The fire was on the 500 block of Hammond Drive, a Sandy Springs Fire Department spokesperson said.  The road has been closed between Kayron Drive and Brookgreen...
Metro youths continue patriotic tradition on Memorial Day weekend
Metro youths continue patriotic tradition on Memorial Day weekend

The significance of the 18,742 marble headstones in Marietta National Cemetery was not lost on Evan Sheridan, as the 10-year-old Boy Scout on Saturday tried his best to make sure the American flags he planted stood up straight and were 6 inches from the center of each stone. “I’m here to honor the soldiers who served our country and...
WATCH: Video allegedly shows jailer use Taser on inmate strapped to chair
WATCH: Video allegedly shows jailer use Taser on inmate strapped to chair

Surveillance video obtained by Channel 2 Action News allegedly shows a Polk County jailer Tasing an inmate who was strapped to a chair. The inmate, Brandon Coffman, allegedly received burn scars from the incident, which took place in July 2016, Channel 2 reported.  Once the Polk County sheriff saw the video later that year, he fired supervisor...
More Stories