Type to search

Clarkston appoints finance director as acting city manager

Clarkston Trending

Clarkston appoints finance director as acting city manager

During the Clarkston City Council meeting on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, Finance Director Dan Defnall said that DeKalb County had closed out the property tax digest and that based on the new update, Clarkston’s commercial tax digest increased by $14 million, which would add $200,000 in revenue. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Clarkston, GA — After a brief executive session, the Clarkston city council voted unanimously to appoint the city’s finance director Dan Defnall as acting city manager. This follows the city parting ways with former city manager Shawanna Qawiy after accusations that she created a toxic work environment and signed contracts for the city without council approval.

“We will have Mr. Defnall as acting city manager while we are looking for an interim city manager, then we will follow up in terms of finding our permanent city manager,”  said Mayor Beverly Burks.

Burks said that this decision will allow the day-to-day work of the city to go forward. Along with Defnall, City Clerk Tomika Mitchell will also be authorized to make payments from the city’s bank accounts. She said that she has reached out to the Georgia Municipal Association for a list of available candidates for interim city manager, as well as firms to help the city conduct a national search for a permanent city manager.

Burks said that Clarkston is unique and it was important to find the right person to step into the role of city manager. She clarified that John Pearson, hired by Qawiy as Director of Police Services, was never an employee and was not paid. Burks said that Pearson made some useful recommendations to the city, such as having an employee who speaks multiple languages oversee outreach for the police department.

Both Burks and Defnall said that the contracts that Defnall raised questions about would be reviewed by the city council. Burks said that would include the contracts with Human Resource Dimensions and PivotPath.

Burks added that the community needed healing. “The city needs to see that we’re going to be transparent, and we’re going to be accountable…I think we need to focus on coming together as a community,” Burks said.

In response to a statement released by the Council on American Islamic Relations saying that Qawiy was forced to resign and that anti-Muslim bias played a part, Burks said that Qawiy’s separation from the city was mutually agreed upon and she would be happy to sit down with leaders from CAIR.

“I look forward to talking to them, so they can be part of how we move forward,” Burks said.

She said that upcoming city council meetings will be focused on the city’s SPLOST project list and a proposed downtown development authority.

“We just want to move forward with the business of the city,” Burks said.

Defnall said that he would try to unite the staff, so the city can move forward.

“There’s been division,” he said.

Defnall added his other immediate priority is to make the budget changes recently approved by the council and enact pay increases for police officers.

Want Decaturish delivered to your inbox every day? Sign up for our free newsletter by clicking here.

If you appreciate our work on this story, please become a paying supporter. For as little as $6 a month, you can help us keep you in the loop about your community.