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Commissioners Birrell and Gambrill call out Chair Cupid’s secret task force as it raises its head in Cobb


Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, engaged in Watergate, a political scandal that involved illegal activities, cover-ups, and attempts to subvert the democratic process. Nixon abandoned transparency in government and chose his own brand of governance which led him down a slippery slope, aka, the Watergate scandal, which led to his resignation in 1974.

I highlight Nixon’s downfall, his lack of transparency as President, and his betrayal of the American people as he chose his own path. When thinking about what is going on in Cobb, we parallel unhealthy decisions made in the Nixon era in the 1970’s and decisions currently being made by Cobb Chairwoman Cupid in her 2023 era.

Although Cupid may not be as bad as ‘Tricky Dick’, many of the actions Cupid has taken have citizens scratching their heads as they question her willingness to eagerly color outside the lines to get what she wants. Cupid’s own actions since becoming Chair sheds a blaring light on her impaired decision making, her lack of candor, and jaded position on her transparency deficit with fellow board members and the citizens of Cobb County.

With the cloak and dagger Cupid has engaged in since becoming Cobb Chair, it is not a stretch to compare her with the 37th president. Like Nixon, Cupid does not think she is accountable to anyone.

Cupid’s specific role as Chairwoman involves running the commission meetings and presenting the budget, which is the role that her predecessors understood. However, we are learning that Cupid has elected to step outside of those responsibilities and boundaries.

We saw it with Cupid as she claimed, ‘Home Rule’ to design her own election map over the map lawfully passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Kemp. There have been other questionable occasions as well, including Cupid asking Cobb Police to remove commissioners from the dais during a meeting. That embarrassing moment has been topped with the revelations of Cupid’s secret task force. Yes, Cupid created an affordable housing task force called Advance Cobb, but there is a big problem that she does not want to talk about, how it was created and the purpose it serves.

Questions have been legitimately raised about the legality of this task force by Republican Commissioners Keli Gambrill and JoAnn Birrell. They have also expressed concerns about Cupid secretly including their names on the task force without their knowledge. This issue has raised doubts and sparked discussions about the legitimacy and transparency of the task force, its composition, and its creation by Chair Cupid.

Further investigation and clarification may be needed to address these concerns and ensure adherence to legal protocols. In addition, the likelihood of a legal challenge hangs in the backdrop if this “illegal task force” starts making decisions they were not elected or appointed to make by the citizens of Cobb or by all of the commissioners, not just Cupid. 

As reported by the MDJ, the names of the task force members were finally disclosed in an Excel spreadsheet following an open records request made by the newspaper.

Cupid and her communication office refused to provide the list when initially asked. I say her communications office because that office cannot function or make a move unless Cupid says so.

Once the names of the task force became known, Gambrill and Birrell were shocked to learn that their names were on the list. Both denied being part of the committee and expressed surprise at their inclusion. “We were taken aback,” said Birrell. The Republican commissioners acknowledged that they were informed about the existence of the task force during a work session on affordable housing in September of last year, but were never provided any information on it to understand what it was and how it was to function in conjunction with their own responsibilities, nor were they asked to serve on it. Said Birrell, “When this committee was established, we had no prior knowledge of it.”

During a recent commission meeting, Courtney Knight, Cupid’s hand picked appointee to the Development Authority of Cobb County, and the person who chairs Cupid’s questionable task force, provided a presentation on the task force’s activities.

Commissioner Gambrill expressed surprise at his presentation saying  “I’m surprised to be hearing this… I didn’t know about this task force, and I didn’t even know who was on the committee.”

Seeing her secret about to be exposed, Cupid attempted to explain the origins of the task force, but Birrell and Gambrill were not buying it. Many members of the community have joined them in being shocked that Cupid would create a secret committee behind the backs of the rest of the commissioners, the county government, and the good citizens of Cobb County. They are also dismayed that Cupid would add these commissioners names to the task force list without so much as a discussion with  them.

This situation is raising concerns in the Cobb Community. Citizens are paying attention to Cupid’s missteps as they look at the election for the next Chairperson for Cobb in 2024. 

Some say Cupid’s actions highlight her inability to work with the rest of the board, her lack of transparency, and her lack of honesty to the people of Cobb. They also point out her betrayal of the other commissioners who represent and are responsible to constituents in their districts who are curious or concerned about the creation of yet another board or task force at the behest of Cupid.

Commissioner Gambrill expressed her concerns about Cupid’s actions, suggesting that Cupid is free to create her own committee. Some say Cupid is not free to create her own work around committee that is tasked with the work of the government. 

Gambrill was not shy about expressing her concerns and took issue with the task force presenting policy recommendations to the Development Authority of Cobb County without the full board’s awareness. The fact that the task force plans to do so next week is alarming and has raised questions about the existence of other undisclosed committees that the full board is not aware of that Cupid has created behind their backs. 

The Democratic Commissioners Richardson and Sheffield have been mum on the issues that have been raised about this secret task force, but many we talked to believe that they have both been privy to what Cupid has been secretly doing behind the scenes.

This situation further highlights the importance of transparency and open communication within the commission and raises valid questions about the involvement and knowledge of other commissioners in decision-making processes for Cobb County, or the purposeful exclusion of the commissioners by Chair Cupid.

Commissioner Gambrill’s remarks emphasize the need for clear guidelines and better communication channels to ensure that all board members are informed and involved in matters that affect the county’s policies and initiatives.

As usual, Cupid tried to detangle herself from the web of mess that she created by saying that the task force originated from discussions with a developer and an attorney who expressed concerns about affordable housing in Cobb County and their desire to be involved in addressing the issue. What does a developer and an attorney have to do with following the policies of County government relative to boards, commissions and task forces and how do their wants supersede the wants and needs of the citizens and voters of Cobb? No one voted for the attorney or developer, so how do they get to decide anything in Cobb? Let us ask Lisa Cupid – maybe she will enlighten us or choose to keep us in the dark as she has the other members of the board. 

Unwilling to accept Cupid’s sanitized version of how the secret task force was created, Commissioner Gambrill raised several important questions during that meeting, including inquiries about the appointment process for task force members, the specific goals of the task force, and the level of oversight in its activities. 

Gambrill pointed out that the Board of Commissioners did not formally vote to authorize the creation of the task force. Gambrill also expressed her concern about granting the task force authority to propose policies that the Board would then vote on, highlighting that this process deviates from how normal boards operate. She was joined by Commissioner Birrell who echoed similar sentiments, expressing her desire to be kept informed and involved in the task force’s activities. Specifically, Birrell requested to be informed of any future meetings, for the meeting schedule to be made public, and for the public to have the opportunity to attend these meetings.

Cupid does not believe that she has to provide transparency to her fellow board members or to the voting citizens of Cobb. She retorted that there was no need for public participation, saying there is no specific requirement for involvement by the public, AKA, Cupid does not want the citizens to know what she is doing until it is too late for them to act. 

Birrell told the MDJ she thinks the task force “needs to be a county board where we have appointments to that, like other boards.” As for the other commissioners being able to add citizens to Cupid’s task force, forget about it. According to emails obtained by the MDJ, Chairwoman Cupid sent an email to Commissioner Birrell and Gambrill saying that while she was happy to consider any nominees they had, “it is our discretion to determine who gets to participate in what capacity as this is an initiative from my office. However, we’d be happy to consider any individuals that you suggest.” Who in the heck is Cupid referring to when she says, “we’d be happy to consider…”?Trying to understand what Cupid is saying or what she has done in creating this task force is like trying to assemble a 1000-piece puzzle that has been mixed in with a different 1000-piece puzzle – it is confusing on purpose. In addition, commissioners have been invited and uninvited to meetings, blocked from zoom calls, and their requests for information have been ignored. Gambrill has requested task force meeting minutes but has yet to receive them.

Cupid, her secrets, and her lack of candor and transparency notwithstanding, the people of Cobb deserve better and deserve to know what Cupid is doing. All of this will be remembered as we go to the polls in 2024 to elect the next chairperson for Cobb County.

SPOTLIGHT will continue to shed light on this situation as we know we have not heard the last of Cupid and her secret committees.


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