Three of Fulton County’s Democratic Commissioners have asked the County Attorney for an opinion on an unlawful action taken at Wednesday’s meeting by Commission Chairman Robb Pitts and the three Republican commissioners. As a result of their action, Pitts and the GOP commissioners effectively blocked a Democratic nomination to the Grady Hospital Board of Trustees.
It all started in what normally is a routine appointment and approval process that turned ugly when Board Chairman Pitts unlawfully separated a joint-nomination vote so a Republican nominee could be approved, and the Democratic appointee indefinitely postponed.
“What Chairman Pitts did was not only unlawful, a violation of the Code of Laws of Fulton County, but a slap in the face and disrespectful to every resident of Atlanta and South Fulton County communities,” said Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman, a Democrat who represents District 6, the seat once held by the late Emma Darnell, that represents mostly African-American households.
Commissioner Khadijah’s nominee to the Grady Board was longtime Atlanta businessman Thomas W. Dortch Jr., a one-time state director for former Georgia U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn. District 3 Commissioner Lee Morris, a Buckhead-area Republican who represents parts of North Fulton, nominated attorney Rick Shackelford. The two appointments were placed on the Agenda as one item (21-0085) to be voted on together. Despite objections, Pitts separated the two without: a lawful motion, a seconding of the motion, and the legally required majority vote to approve dividing the agenda item.
To add insult to injury, Pitts then made a motion to postpone indefinitely the District 6 commissioner’s choice to sit on the Grady Board. That motion passed 4-3, with Pitts and the three Republicans voting to shelve Commissioner Khadijah’s nomination of Dortch. She and the other two Democrats, Natalie Hall and Marvin Arrington Jr., voted against the postponement.
Each commissioner routinely gets to appoint a Grady trustee, as the County provides money for the operations of the historic hospital, appropriating more than $50 million each year. Generally, each commissioner’s appointment is approved unanimously, respecting each commissioner’s authority to represent their constituents’ choice to serve on the Grady Board.
“Our opinion at this time is that Mr. Dortch is legally appointed to the Grady Board,” said Commissioner Khadijah. “The fact that there was no lawful motion to separate the nominations, and a motion by Commissioner Morris to approve his nominee prevailed 6-0, means that Mr. Dortch’s nomination is enshrined in Commissioner Morris’s motion. We fully expect the County Attorney to set aside politics and provide appropriate review. And, if necessary, my colleagues and I are prepared to have a Court decide.”
You can watch the meeting, the deliberation and the vote on YouTube. The item begins at four hours in, starting at 4:20:40.