Sharon Barnes Sutton is a no-show at Water’s Edge forumCommissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton speaks during a groundbreaking for a new fire station in Avondale Estates. File photo by Dan Whisenhunt
Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton avoided yet another forum on May 18, declining to attend an event at Water’s Edge, one of the largest neighborhoods in her district.
One of her two opponents in the May 24 primary, Lance Hammonds, is involved with the homeowners association. He said may residents of the neighborhood are fed up with Sutton, who represents District 4.
“They’re tired of the unresponsiveness,” he said.
Sutton faces Hammonds and Steve Bradshaw in the May 24 primary. Hammonds said the election may result in a runoff between Sutton and himself or Bradshaw.
“I’m hoping not,” Hammonds said. “Being a reasonable person looking at … the history of how we have brought back incumbents, there’s a good chance that there’ll be a runoff.”
Sutton hasn’t returned calls from Decaturish and has been generally unresponsive to media inquiries. Hammonds, who works as a Region Account Manager for NorFalco Inc., called Sutton’s behavior “disgusting.”
“It’s total disrespect for the constituents,” Hammonds said. “How are you going to be a public official if you’re afraid to talk to the public? She doesn’t want to field the tough questions and deal with the concerns they may have. If you’re confident in who you are and what you’re doing you should be able to face the tough questions.”
Hammonds said he is running to restore residents’ trust in county government.
“On a regular basis there needs to be training and meetings to make sure everyone understands the standard of ethics in the county,” he said.
Long-term, he’d like DeKalb County government to become a model for ethics for other governments.
Sutton has faced a litany of scandals and ethics controversies during her time in office.
Even before her 2012 reelection bid, questions were raised regarding her campaign spending. Jim Walls, who runs the Atlanta Unfiltered website, wrote that despite being saddled with debt, Sutton was still able to personally spend $69,000 to win the DeKalb County Commission seat in 2008.
She has a penchant for alienating some of the politicians in her district. Former Clarkston mayor Emanuel Ransom, who was defeated in the 2013 elections, told Decaturish in 2014, “She’s one of the worst commissioners we’ve ever had in the fourth district.” She was accused of personally holding up a contract to reconstruct the fire station in Avondale Estates.
As the 2016 elections approach, Sutton is facing more questions concerning her use of her county-issued purchasing card. She sued the county’s ethics board, claiming it is unconstitutional.
There are questions surrounding her free memberships to the YMCA. Sutton voted in favor of a partnership between the county and YMCA, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. The memberships were suspended after media inquiries.
She also recently came under fire for holding a festival in her district. She said the festival wasn’t political or related to her reelection campaign.
Sutton has told the Atlanta Journal Constitution she is being targeted by her political opponents.
Hammonds said it’s her constituents she needs to worry about. While Bradshaw lost badly to Sutton in 2012, Hammonds thinks things will be different this time.
“I think there’s enough dissatisfaction in District 4 that I don’t think Sharon will have the same success she had the last time when Steve ran against her,” he said.