Athens-Clarke County commissioners will likely hold off on hiring a “monitor” to investigate complaints against police until the local government hires a new auditor.
That was the recommendation of the commission’s Government Operations Committee after a Mar. 20 meeting to discuss staffing for the Public Safety Civilian Oversight Board. The position of internal auditor—the head of the Office of Operational Analysis, who reports directly to the mayor and commission rather than the county manager—has been vacant for almost two years, but the mayor and commission are scheduled to interview candidates next month.
Members of PSCOB (pronounced “peace cob”) have been pushing for a full-time monitor. The commission could cross-train two management analysts in the auditor’s office, according to the ACC Human Resources Department, or replace one of those positions with an attorney to serve as monitor. “Let’s get the auditor onboard and get their thoughts on it,” Commissioner Mike Hamby said.
Commissioner Patrick Davenport, the GOC chair, said PSCOB requests to sit in on interviews for the auditor position are a nonstarter: “That’s not going to happen.” No other advisory board plays a role in staff hiring, and the idea presents confidentiality issues, he said.
Davenport also expressed frustration with PSCOB, to the point where he’s ready to replace its members. “I know it’s going to be a lengthy process, but my mom and dad always told me, if something starts off bad, it’s going to continue to be bad,” he said.
Commissioner Dexter Fisher disagreed with the idea of disbanding the board, but said he wants to add more members, particularly older ones. “It’s not as diverse as it needs to be,” Fisher said. “The majority of members are under 40. It should look like the community, and right now PSCOB doesn’t look like the community.” The median age of Athens residents is 28.
PSCOB supports a ban on people with law enforcement backgrounds serving as monitors. Fisher and Davenport said they disagree with that position but would be willing to go along with it in order to move forward. However, the GOC did not take a stance on that topic.
As is typical with committee meetings, public input was not taken. However, PSCOB chair Cassie Evans sent the mayor and commissioner a letter reiterating the group’s support for a full-time monitor who is not affiliated with the auditor’s office or law enforcement.
PSCOB was established to instill trust in the community and serve as a liaison between the people and the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, Athens-Clarke County Probation Services, the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, and the Athens-Clarke County Corrections Department,” Evans wrote. “We believe that the city must make further investments into PSCOB to make the board most effective in its ability to fulfill its role in the community. The board has done its research, and it is shown to be the best practice for civilian oversight boards.”
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