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Rockdale Election Board considers 8 for at-large position

CONYERS -- The Rockdale County Board of Elections will move forward this month on interviewing a new set of candidates for its at-large seat and could name a new member by February.

Democratic member Cacie Dix and Republican member Jonny Brown agreed during their regular monthly meeting Wednesday to hold interviews of the eight applicants on Jan. 17 and 18. The interviews will be held each day from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Election Board's offices at 1400 Parker Road.

Two of the eight applicants, current at-large member and chairman Cary Bond and John Bickford, had applied last year for the position. Other applicants include former State Court Judge William Todd, Charles Chance, David Farmer, David Collins Sandra Folsom and T. Eleanor Davis.

Dix and Brown agreed to hold the interviews in public but not without discussion. They will meet at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 23, to deliberate their choices and possibly make a final selection.

Failure to name a new at-large member caused Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation to remove the partisan members on Nov. 11 for violations of their duties.

Bond, whose term ended June 30, continues to serve until Dix and Brown make a decision. As an applicant, he could be reappointed to a three-year term.

Brown felt that the interviews should be done in executive session while Dix believed they should be done in public. Both agreed there were flaws in the last round of interviews conducted in October.

"One of the things I'm concerned with doing it in public is the potential for people in the audience to hijack the meeting and start asking questions and wanting to be part of the interview process," Brown said. "It can be very distracting for us and for the person being interviewed."

Dix, who serves as vice-chair on the board, believes she can control the interviews with the understanding that there will be no public input during the meetings.

"I think from being on other boards that I can moderate the conversations that as such there's not additional comment from citizens, who I'm sure they all understand, they're not to have any additional input during the interview process," Dix said. "If that's not the case, then we'll ask that they be excused."

The last round of interviews had former members Lynn Brown and Garvin Haynes disagreeing on several points, and members of the audience disrupted the process by directing comments to the board during the interviews.

Dix solicited comment from the audience on whether the interviews should be conducted in open or closed meetings.

Stan Williams, a former county Democratic Party chairman, said he supported open session interviews to allow all citizens to see who is applying and their reasons for doing so. "What do they have to hide?" he asked.

Bickford supported holding the interviews in closed session. He said applicants during the last series of interviews were allowed to watch the interviews, which he felt was unfair for others to hear his responses to questions.

Dix agreed that instance gave some applicants an advantage over others. She promised that would not happen this time.

Rockdale County Elections Supervisor Cynthia Welch advised the board members they could not restrict applicants from showing up since it was a meeting open to the public. She said they had the option to hold interviews in open or closed meetings but that deliberations on the applicants had to be done during an open meeting.

In the end, Brown and Dix agreed on the open meeting interviews and will request that applicants not attend until their own interview.