Mayor Kelly Girtz released a statement this afternoon on the settlement with former Athens-Clarke County police officer Taylor Saulters saying that he and commissioners wanted to put the incident behind them and move forward with new law enforcement and diversity initiatives.
"Like we have done with past circumstances involving members of the community and members of our Police Department, we evaluated this situation based on its own unique facts and circumstances," Girtz said. "We, the Mayor and Commission of Athens-Clarke County, have made this decision in order to avoid prolonging the pain and expense of continued litigation, and further place our energy moving forward into ensuring that safe, dignified lives can be lived throughout our community."
Photo Credit: Savannah Cole/file
A Student Government Association resolution urging the University of Georgia to build a monument on North Campus to all enslaved people at the University of Georgia and to dedicate the Chapel Bell to two enslaved men who were utilized as bell ringers on campus passed 32-3 Tuesday night.
“Many community members and students do not feel as though the University of Georgia adequately, publicly acknowledged its past entanglement with slavery, nor acknowledged the substantial contributions that enslaved peoples made towards the establishment and success of the University,” the SGA resolution states.
For senators like Jessica Douglas, who introduced the resolution, memorials at Baldwin Halland Oconee Hill Cemetery are not enough.
“There’s this conception that because a memorial was placed at Baldwin Hall that we’ve sort of checked the box and that that’s all we really need to do. I want to continue the conversation and grappling with our legacy of slavery,” Douglas said.
The Athens-Clarke County Commission voted Tuesday night to approve a settlement in a lawsuit filed by former police officer Taylor Saulters, who was fired last year after hitting a fleeing suspect with his cruiser.
The vote was added to the commission's agenda at the last minute because, as ACC Attorney Bill Berryman told commissioners, Saulters agreed to it on Monday. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed, nor had documents related to the settlement been posted online as of this writing, and several commissioners told Flagpole that they weren't sure if they were at liberty to discuss it. Commissioner Jerry NeSmith, presiding over the meeting in place of Mayor Kelly Girtz, said Girtz would release a statement in "the next couple of days."
The vote was 5–2, with commissioners Tim Denson and Patrick Davenport voting against the settlement. Commissioner Mariah Parker abstained, Commissioner Andy Herod was absent, and NeSmith did not vote because he was acting as mayor pro tem.
The Clarke County Board of Education voted 6–2 Thursday night for Frances Berry, a well-known volunteer in progressive circles, to fill the District 2 seat recently vacated by Vernon Payne.
The vote followed a plea from BOE member Linda Davis to choose a black person for the position—namely, former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Harry Sims—since the school district is majority black. Only a black person, she said, can understand what it’s like to live as a black person. “It’s one thing to have theories and another to live like that,” she said.
Board member Greg Davis said he was voting for Berry because she wouldn’t be satisfied with the status quo, which he said was failing the district’s students by not offering them the skills needed to get good jobs. Three young women joined the school board last year, he said, referring to Kara Dyckman, LaKeisha Gantt and Tawana Mattox, and he wanted to add a fourth. Berry’s training as a counselor, and as a teacher of counselors, should serve students well, Greg Davis said.
Zero Mile, the Atlanta-based promotions company that books and operates Athens' Georgia Theatre, as well as the Atlanta venues Variety Playhouse and Terminal West, has announced a new partnership with AEG Presents, the entertainment division of Los Angeles-based events monolith Anschutz Entertainment Group, or AEG.
Former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Harry Sims is among three applicants for the District 2 seat on the Clarke County Board of Education vacated by Vernon Payne.
East Broad Street resident Mary P. Bagby and Mulberry Street resident Frances Berry are the other two applicants for the open seat. Berry, a photographer, is a former president of the Federation of Neighborhoods and managed Commissioner Patrick Davenport’s campaign in 2018.
Photo Credit: ACC Fire Department
A car caught fire at the College Avenue parking deck this morning, but damage was minor and the deck is expected to reopen on Wednesday.
Athens-Clarke County firefighters responded to reports of smoke billowing from the deck at about 10 a.m. The smoke came from a car accident—a driver hit a wall on the fourth level, according to Battalion Chief Jeff Reno.
"It's still under investigation, but we think that's what happened," he said.
Piedmont Athens Regional CEO Charles Peck is stepping down this spring, Piedmont Healthcare announced last week.
Peck will return Mar. 1 to Navigant Consulting, where he previously served as managing director. But he will stay on as Piedmont Athens Regional’s interim CEO until May 31.
Photo Credit: Clarke County School District
Vernon Payne has stepped down from the Clarke County school board for health reasons after 40 years of service.
Payne submitted his resignation to Superintendent Demond Means and Gov. Nathan Deal in a letter dated Dec. 28, but it was not made public until last Friday.
Payne has not attended a meeting since March, according to meeting minutes. The school district had no procedure to replace him unless he resigned, causing some concern among his District 2 constituents that they would go unrepresented until his term expires at the end of 2020.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Athens-Clarke County
Athens-Clarke County Manager Blaine Williams has appointed a North Carolina police chief to take over the ACC police department effective Feb. 4.
Cleveland Lee Spruill Sr. has been the police chief in Huntersville, NC, since May 2014. The Huntersville police department has 102 sworn officers, 111 total employees and a $12.8 million annual budget.
Although Huntersville, population 60,000, is half the size of Athens, Spruill has experience running a larger department. Prior to becoming the police chief in Huntersville, Spruill was the executive chief deputy in Alexandria, VA, which had 320 sworn officers, 105 civilian employees, a $57 million budget and served a population of 150,000.
Williams said in a news release that Spruill stood out among many qualified applicants as the best person to uphold ACC's philosophy of community-oriented policing and serve as an ambassador to the community.
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