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Residents question Oden appointment to panel
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A day after Governor Nathan Deal's appointment of Rockdale County Chairman and CEO Richard Oden to a three-member panel to decide if DeKalb's CEO can continue to serve in office, local residents are questioning the appointment and Oden's ties to Ellis.

Oden, along with newly elected Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeffery Turner and Attorney General Sam Olens, will determine whether Ellis can perform his official duties as DeKalb CEO while under felony indictments relating to alleged extortion for campaign contributions.

The law requires Olens to be the third member on the review panel. Oden and Turner are Democrats and Olens, a former Cobb County Commission Chairman, is a Republican. Ellis is a Democrat.

Resident Sam Smiley, founder of the BOCWatch group and a past Republican candidate for Post 1 Commissioner, submitted a letter to Deal expressing that he felt Oden would not be able to be fair and impartial.

"In years past since Chairman Oden has taken office he has shown his allegiance to CEO Ellis on numerous occasions," wrote Smiley. "Seeing as Chairman Oden and CEO Ellis are such "good friends" this should certainly exclude Chairman Oden from a board that will determine the professional fate of his friend."

Resident Josie Dean, a regular attendee at Board of Commissioner meetings and founder of the Rockdale Think Tank civic group, put in her two cents on Oden's appointment. "I'm afraid you're being set up," she said during the public comments section. "Burrell Ellis is your friend and goes to the same church... You're put into a very bad bind."

"If you don't get him out of office, they're going to say you were set up to keep him in there," she said.

As head executives of neighboring counties, Ellis and Oden have worked together on regional issues. Both served on the Atlanta Regional Commission's TSPLOST Regional Roundtable, which was made up of the Commission Chair and one mayor from each county. Both have ties to St. Phillip AME church in Atlanta, which seats up to 2,500 per service and has multiple services.

At the Rockdale County 2011 State of the County address, Oden introduced elected officials from other counties that were in attendance.

"When we're talking about regionalism, my good friend and CEO of DeKalb County government, CEO Burrell Ellis," said Oden, as Ellis stood up in the audience.

Oden also went on to recognize Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell, whom Oden described as a mentor. Bell was defeated in the 2012 election by Turner.

During Ellis' speeches at the 2011, 2012 and 2013 DeKalb County State of the County address, there was no reciprocal recognition of Oden.

Under the executive order, the panel has 14 days to study the case and issue a recommendation to the governor. If the panel determines that Ellis should remain in office, that decision is final. If the panel determines Ellis should be suspended, the governor will be able to have the final say.

Oden declined through a spokesperson to comment on the appointment.