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Commissioners at standstill on decision to fire Fulton County elections director

The Board of Registration and Elections voted the day prior to terminate Richard Barron.

ATLANTA — It appears Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron may be keeping his job – for now. This comes just one day after the Registration and Elections Board voted to remove him.

On Wednesday, the move failed to get the support it needed from county commissioners.

A lot of the backlash against Barron has focused on a report, addressing how Fulton handled elections over the course of the last year.

RELATED: Fulton County board votes to remove elections director

Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman said the Board of Commissioners decided to keep Barron in place after they refused to affirm a recommendation to terminate him immediately.

“Barron has received wide praise from Republicans and Democrats, for putting in place the most extensive expansion of voting- and voter-access in Georgia history during the November Presidential and January U.S. Senate Runoff elections,” Abdur-Rahman said in a statement to 11Alive.

Fulton County Code of Ordinances, Part 1, §14-42, provides the Board of Commissioners with the authority to appoint the Elections Supervisor as recommended by the Board of Registration and Elections. The Board of Registration and Elections' 3-2 vote to recommend the termination of the Director of Registration & Elections.

Following Executive Session during their meeting Wednesday, the Board of Commissioners voted on two motions relevant to this matter. One was to approve the recommendation of the Election Board to terminate the Director of Registration & Elections (made by Commissioner Bob Ellis). The second was to reject that recommendation (made by Commissioner Marvin Arrington).

Both of those motions failed by a vote of 3-3. 

The motion to fire Barron was made by North Fulton Republican Commissioner Bob Ellis and seconded by North Fulton Republican Liz Hausmann. Buckhead-area Republican Lee Morris joined them and also voted yes to fire Barron.

"They've stated publicly various reasons why they think change is necessary," said Ellis, referring to the Board of Registration and Elections. "Things have emanated out of a consent decree that the county is under, the monitoring report that's come back from the monitors about the performance, things they've observed, they talk about health and safety issues, chain of control, custody issues."

Three Democrats, including Chairman Robb Pitts and Commissioners Marvin Arrington and Abdur-Rahman voted against firing Barron. 

"Republicans from the state and county level are mad at him because he was not going to do voter suppression and he's not going to allow the Republican party to take over elections," Abdur-Rahman said.

But Ellis said this move isn't political. He believed bottom line: the Registration and Elections Board should have the one and only say.

"I don't think that power rests with the Board of Commissioners," Ellis said. "There's these separation of duties for a reason."

Vice chair Natalie Hall is the one commissioner who sat out, ultimately causing the vote to be deadlocked.

11Alive reached out to Natalie Hall but has not heard back. Commissioner Ellis mentioned that she said she didn't have enough information to make a decision just yet.  

"Give me evidence that Richard Barron should be fired," Abdur-Rahman said. "Nobody could give me evidence. If it was a fraudulent election, then why was it certified?"

After months of observing Fulton County elections, nonpartisan monitor Carter Jones wrote up a report presented to the State Elections Board on Wednesday.

“Firing Rick Barron is not a shortcut to fixing the mismanagement inside Fulton’s elections department,” Jones said.

11Alive is working to get answers about if the move to dismiss him could be pushed through other ways. We also reached out to Barron for comment, but he declined an interview.

This matter is expected to come before the Board of Commissioners at their next meeting on March 3, but in the meantime, there is no change in the current status of Barron's job.