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Georgia governor suspends indicted Douglas County Commissioners


Two of the five commissioners in neighboring Douglas County, Chairwoman Romona Jackson Jones and Commissioner Henry Mitchell III, were suspended this week from office by Gov. Brian Kemp following their indictment on bid-rigging charges.

Kemp used the executive powers of his office and issued executive orders to suspend  the two commissioners from office effective immediately. This suspension is in place until their cases are resolved or their four-year terms end.

Chairwoman Jones was first elected in 2016 and reelected in 2020, while Mitchell was elected in 2010 and reelected to a fourth term in 2022.

According to a statement released Thursday from the Douglas County Department of Communications & Public Relations, they said the suspensions should not affect county operations, “Douglas County government will continue to operate and fully function, serving its citizens and visitors.”  

The statement went on to say that Commission Vice Chair Tarenia Carthan will preside over meetings until an interim chair is appointed.

The Douglas Commission has five members, comprising four districts, and a chair elected at large. With the three remaining commissioners, the county can continue to do business if all remaining members are present.

The suspensions are the results of indictments handed down Feb. 24 in Douglas County Superior Court. The two commissioners were indicted along with three others for their role in a cleaning contract awarded to a political supporter in 2018.

Included in the indictments were Jones, Mitchell, Tax Commissioner Gregory Baker, former Purchasing Director Billy Clyde Peacock and business owner Forrest Anthony Knight.

Each was indicted on one count of conspiracy in restraint of free and open competition in transactions, while Chairwoman Jones was also indicted on one count of making false statements. Citing a 2022 statue, the suspensions are without pay.

Jones’ attorney, Clinton Rucker, released a statement on her behalf saying:

“Dr. Romona Jackson Jones is disappointed with Governor Brian Kemp’s Executive Order suspending her from office pending the final disposition of this case, but recognizes that this decision is consistent with prior cases and Georgia legal statutes,” Rucker said. “Dr. Jackson Jones will now shift her focus to working with her legal team in the preparation of her defense of these baseless charges. Dr. Jackson Jones vehemently denies all the allegations currently pending against her and continues to strongly proclaim her innocence to these charges. The Chairman looks forward to the opportunity for vindication in a court of law once all the facts can be presented.”

The indictment alleges that between May 29, 2018, and June 26, 2018, the officials conspired to hand a janitorial contract for the Douglas County Annex Building to Knight’s company, S&A Express of Douglasville.

It claims that County officials allowed Knight to bid on the contract after bidding was closed, “walked (S&A) through” the bidding process, added S&A to the bid list at a price matching the low bid of $2,100 per month, and signed the contract before commissioners voted for it, according to the indictment.

Following the indictments, on March 21 Gov. Kemp ordered a review commission, made up of commissioners across the state, to determine whether the indictment of the two county commissioners would adversely affect county business. The review commission concluded Tuesday that it would, and Kemp issued the suspension orders the next day.

In describing the indictments in Douglas County, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said, “Those who work for the taxpayers of Georgia are expected to uphold high ethical standards and to perform their duties in an honest and transparent manner. Whether an elected official or employee, anyone who breaks this trust will be held accountable for their actions.”

A spokesperson for Douglas County said both commissioners were on Spring Break when the suspensions were announced. The chairman’s county car is being returned and key cards collected.  The spokesperson said the suspensions will have no effect on the 1,200 employees in Douglas County.

A spokesperson from Kemp’s office said they are studying the law to see how temporary commissioners might be appointed.

Local Democrats have already provided Kemp with their own list. As for Tax Commissioner Greg Baker, also implicated in the bid rigging scandal, a separate committee is expected to make its recommendation soon. The five defendants are currently scheduled for arraignment on April 18.


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