In finally resigning his Commission Seat after 23 months as Interim Chief Executive, Lee May has made much of the resistance of “three Commissioners” of the BOC to his efforts to install a hand-picked successor to represent District Five. As the “three Commissioners” he referred to, we think the public might benefit from a broader perspective on the issue.
First, the upcoming election could have occurred far sooner, in either of the General Elections in November of 2013 or 2014, if only Mr. May had earlier resigned the Commission seat he could not occupy while serving as the interim CEO. Not only would DeKalb have avoided the $100,000 expense of a Special Election, but voter participation would have been greatly increased over the lonely, single-issue ballot turnout we can expect on June 16. In fact, until a new law was hastily passed in April of 2014, his resignation was the only means to fill the seat. In refusing to resign, May prioritized keeping his political options open over representation for the citizens he is sworn to serve.
Second, when the legislature did pass the new law to deal with this unprecedented vacancy, May then took control of the process and spent another 3 months trying to anoint an ally for the Commission Seat. He could not prevail, and then insisted, for another five months, that no one else would do, until he finally allowed the Commission to make nominations in February 2015.
Finally, five nominations came from the Commission. Every Commissioner voted for some of the candidates, but none could achieve victory. In breaking a tie vote, May voted against Gina Mangham the only candidate that he could have pushed over the top.
During these many months when May would not resign, he also abandoned his responsibility to District Five constituents. He closed the District Office, taking his staff with him, and would not allow district funds to be used for a constituent services assistant. Represented by the Interim CEO, District Five should have had the best constituent services in the County; instead services remained as poor as ever.
Now, after all of these months that he delayed, May choses to resign with only a few short weeks between his resignation and a low turnout June 16 election. This is hardly a coincidence. There is not enough time to raise money and launch a campaign with early voting on May 26. This seems to be the very definition of the “petty personal politics and clear obstruction” that he attributes to us. In addition, he apparently favored a candidate with knowledge of his plans, because only Vaughan Irons had campaign material ready to mail out the day of May’s resignation.
We have consistently said the voters of District 5 should be able to elect their own representative to the County Commission. We have always supported an open and fair election and we are glad for that long overdue outcome. We regret that Mr. May’s singular focus on his own political advantage made the wait so long, and that the snap election scheduled for June 16 may attract so few voters. We hope that District Five candidates and voters will rise to the occasion and fill the seat with a Commissioner who has their interest, not his own, at heart.
Commissioners Kathie Gannon, Nancy Jester and Jeff Rader