Contract conundrum — Lee, Ott in backstage standoff over Hankerson’s future
by Lee B. Garrett, Joe Kirby and Otis Brumby III
August 09, 2013 11:37 PM | 4786 views | 7 7 comments | 91 91 recommendations | email to a friend | print
IT HAS BEEN FAIRLY QUIET around the county commission offices this summer. However, the elephant in the room waiting to be addressed is County Manager David Hankerson’s contract that expires at the end of January 2014.

Sources tell Around Town Commission Chairman Tim Lee and his fellow commissioners are locked in a backstage “You go first — No, you go first” standoff in terms of how to disengage themselves from the longtime county manager.

Lee is said to be hoping that east Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott makes the first public move against Hankerson. After all, Ott was one of two votes (along with then-Commissioner Woody Thompson) back in January 2011 against extending Hankerson’s contract for three more years. The two said they were basing their votes on the three-year time frame, not on the CM’s job performance. However, their votes were outnumbered by those of Lee and Commissioners Helen Goreham and JoAnn Birrell.

Will Ott take the bait and be the first to move against Hankerson once again?


MEANWHILE, the clock is ticking on Lee, Ott, et al. Hankerson’s contract, with its total annual compensation of $274,000, expires Jan. 31. Incidentally, that’s almost twice the $138,000 that Lee is paid each year as chairman. Hankerson, BTW, is the only county employee with an employment contract.

Hankerson, 67, was appointed county manager by then-Chairman Bill Byrne back in 1993 and generally has won high marks for his performance through the years. He has been wooed by Savannah and Paulding County to be their manager and this spring was the finalist for the Fulton County manager job before withdrawing his name at the last minute, saying he is happy where he is.


COBB’S COMMISSIONERS have rarely been publicly critical of Hankerson in the past year or so. But on the other hand, neither did they publicly express any regrets this spring about the possibility he might go south to Fulton.

Earlier, Ott and others complained about Hankerson’s quiet shifting of about $500,000 each year from the streetlight fund to the general fund. And Hankerson’s decision (later approved by the commission) to buy a brother-sister pair of Alabama mules (named “Jack” and “Jill”) for $7,800 (plus about $60,000 in other costs) to plow the county-owned Hyde Farm museum also came under heavy fire from the public. The museum never opened and the mules eventually were sold off to Canada (where they continue to provide fodder for Dick Yarbrough columns).


LEE’S MANAGEMENT STYLE is said to be the cause of some of the more recent tensions between Hankerson and him. Hankerson got along famously with Lee’s predecessor as chair, now-state Attorney General Sam Olens, during Olens’ decade in the job.

Lee is said to be more of a “hands-on” manager and a more frequent presence at the county admin building than was Olens, who for much of his tenure was trying to juggle a caseload at his law practice with chairing the commission.

MEANWHILE, the solution to Lee and the commission’s conundrum might come from DeKalb County. That’s where Commissioner Lee May was sworn in last month as county CEO after the suspension of scandal-tarred incumbent Burrell Ellis by Gov. Nathan Deal.

May, as it turns out, recently co-authored a column with fellow Commissioner Elaine Boyer that appeared on the website of former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. In it, May and Boyer argue that DeKalb should abolish the position of CEO and replace it with a county manager form of government like that employed by Cobb.

The elected DeKalb CEO runs the county day-to-day, with the elected county commission making the big-picture policy decisions.

The county manager form of government used by Cobb and numerous other communities features an elected commission headed by an elected chairman. The chairman is paid what is considered an executive-level salary commensurate with the amount of time and expertise needed for the job. But the day-to-day running of the county is directed by a county manager, who answers to the chairman and commission.


SO MIGHT a transformed DeKalb county government come a-calling for Hankerson to make him its first-ever county manager? It would be a plum of a hire for DeKalb and would provide a friction-free way for Lee, Ott and presumably other commissioners to cut their ties with Hankerson. And Hankerson could start collecting a full pension from Cobb while at the same time “double-dipping,” i.e., earning a full-time salary from DeKalb.

Could the DeKalb Commission metamorphose from one form of government to another by January, and without the involvement of the state Legislature, which doesn’t go back into session until a couple of weeks before Hankerson’s Cobb contract expires? It’s too soon to say. But you can bet that at least some of Cobb’s commissioners are looking at such a possibility as an answer to a prayer.


HANKERSON has always been a team player and popular among the majority of the 4,000-plus county employees. However, sources tell AT he has tired of dealing with a divided board and uncertainty surrounding his future over the past year. While he doesn’t appear ready for retirement, Hankerson, too, might be ready for a fresh start. He by and large has done a good job over the last 20 years as CM and worked well with three county chairman with widely divergent personalities.

Cobb is considered one of the most well-run counties in the state and has avoided the scandals and corruption of counties like Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton and Gwinnett.

Regardless of which way the commission goes, it hopefully won’t keep Hankerson twisting in the wind for too much longer.


“THE GHOST RIDER” will be on the move again today and tomorrow — although at a crawl, not a gallop.

“The Ghost” was the 10th C-130 Hercules ever built and was originally delivered to the Air Force in 1957 from the huge Lockheed Plant in Marietta. It later was converted to an AC-130A gunship armed with two 40 mm cannons and four Gatling machine guns capable of firing up to 34,000 rounds per minute. It saw service in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm and was retired in 1995.

The huge plane has been parked for the past year or so at Dobbins Air Reserve Base and this weekend will be moved to its permanent home at the Marietta Museum of History’s Aviation Wing. Wing volunteers — mostly Lockheed Martin retirees and former Air Force and Navy personnel — have removed the plane’s wings, engines and propellers in preparation for the move. All of the guns are still mounted in the aircraft, although they have been disabled, according to Wing spokesman Bill Paden.

The plane will be towed across Dobbins and then across the Lockheed campus to the Wing property at the intersection of South Cobb Drive and Atlanta Road, where it eventually will be reassembled. Numerous power lines will have to be taken down in order to accomplish the move, which might be impacted by the weather as well.


EVENTS: Michael Shaffer, assistant director of the Civil War Center at Kennesaw State University, will give a talk on “Francis Shoup and the Chattahoochee River Line” at 2 p.m. today in the Kennesaw Depot in downtown Kennesaw. The free talk is sponsored by the Kennesaw Historical Society and the Southern Museum.


MDJ immigration columnist and activist D.A. King was the subject of a 1,200-word front-page profile in Tuesday’s New York Times. Perhaps even more surprising, considering that paper’s well-known liberal slant (even on its news pages), it was an even-handed portrait of King, who tends to have a polarizing effect on many journalists.

Among those reading the story — and liking it — was syndicated columnist Ann Coulter, who tweeted, “Immigration Patriot D.A. King featured in NYT today — sounds fantastic! Contribute to him!”


POLITICS: The Cobb Democratic Party will have its Second Saturday Breakfast from 9-11 this morning at Three Amigos Mexican Bar and Grill on Whitlock Ave. Albert McCrae of the Austell Community Task Force will be speaker. The passing this week of First VP Anthony McKinney will also be noted.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Key word "Avoided"
August 11, 2013
One for the road. It's not that there is no corruption in Cobb County Government, it's like you said, "Cobb is considered one of the most well-run counties in the state and has avoided the scandals and corruption of counties like Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton and Gwinnett."

Key word AVOIDED, which means haven't been caught yet!!

Hankerson s future
August 11, 2013
Hankerson is no great manager. He had people below him that did all the work and he recieved the credit. By the way, he had a $500,000.00 a year slush fund to cover his, Byrne's, and Olens' financial mistakes, or whatever they were doing with the money.
Opportunity knocks
August 11, 2013
Let's take advantage of this opportunity to save over 300,000.00 in salary and benifits by releasing Hankerson.
So tired
August 11, 2013
If Hankerson is so tired, why dosen't he leave. On one hand he, "loves it here" after being caught with his hand in the cookie jar and on the other hand he's tired. He wont leave because he is not tired of the power and the $234,000.00 salary.
Something left out
August 11, 2013
It appears you left out the fact that Hankerson coul not get the votes tobe hired by FultonCounty as their county manager; No doubt he was told of the decision from an insider (Probably the Chairman)who he called and withdrew to save face.

As far as his being liked by the majority of employees,that is rubbish. He leads by frar and intimidation. This will come out when he leaves.
Laura Armstrong
August 10, 2013

I think they need Hankerson in DeKalb County, based on the recent story about a police raid in the middle of the night. Thanks MDJ, for helping keep our officials' noses clean. Sunshine is the best disinfectant!
Check your facts
August 14, 2013
That wasn't a police raid, it was the Sheriff's Dept.
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