Clayton County Board Chair ousts county manager

by: Tony Thomas Updated:

Under the guidance of new County Chairman Jeff Turner, the board fired County Manager Wade Starr and eliminated his position altogether.

JONESBORO, Ga. - A big shift in power in Clayton County political circles means a big difference in how the county will be run in the coming years.

That was evident Wednesday night at the first meeting of the newly elected Board of Commissioners.

Under the guidance of new County Chairman Jeff Turner, the board fired County Manager Wade Starr and eliminated his position altogether.

The board also stripped the name of a former commissioner off the title of a new recreation center, leaving some residents saying much of this was being done out of vindictiveness toward the old power structure.

Turner used to be the Clayton County police chief but was demoted under a cloud of allegations in 2009 and left the department.

He won election as chairman last November and one of the first agenda items he took up Wednesday night was to eliminate the position and fire Starr.

"Any time you have change in leadership you are going to have change in staff, and basically that's what it is about," Turner said after the meeting.

Turner now has a majority voting bloc to push through his agenda and it was evident Wednesday night. Several votes were 3-2 with Turner, new commissioner Shana Rooks, and commissioner Michael Edmonson voting in the majority.

In several quick votes, the board eliminated the manager position, fired Starr and ordered a forensic audit of some county finances.

"I think they (the decisions) were important from the standpoint that it helps me lay my vision for the future of Clayton County," Turner said.

Commissioners Sonna Singleton and Gail Hambrick find themselves on the losing end of many votes now.

"That's the beauty of government. The majority wins and I'm going to still as a commissioner I'm going to stick with what I believe in," said Singelton.

But of all the changes, it was the yanking of Wole Ralph's name off the rec center that caught the most heat from citizens.

"I would pray vindictiveness, backbiting and an attitude of 'I'll fix you' is a thing of the past," said resident Linda Crawley.

"It is time for us to restore the pride and time for us to move on," said Michael Bryant.

The Clayton County District Attorney is also getting involved.

Tracey Graham Lawson filed a motion in court this week, asking a judge to toss out at least 18 votes and appointments made by the old commission last year.

Graham Lawson believes the open records laws were violated. No ruling has been made.