Robert Murphy suspends campaign for District 6 City Commission seat, endorses Ted Terry

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DeKalb County, GA – Local business owner and Democratic party advocate Robert Murphy has announced he is no longer seeking to be the Democratic nominee for the County Commission’s District 6 seat.

He will instead endorse Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, who will face off against local “smart development advocate” Emily Halevy in the May 19 Democratic primary. They’re both running to replace outgoing Commissioner Kathie Gannon, who recently decided not to seek another term.

Qualifying for that election hasn’t started yet and more candidates could enter the race, including candidates for the Republican nomination. The general election is Nov. 3.

“It is with a heavy heart that I announce the suspension of my campaign for DeKalb County Commissioner of Super District 6, effective immediately,” Murphy said. “When I entered this race last Fall, it was to bring a much-needed change in leadership to DeKalb. It was to bring more effective problem-solving, real transparency, and a commitment to voter engagement. As my wife and I welcomed our son into the world last month, our lives and our priorities changed. My singular focus of helping bring change to DeKalb County as Commissioner was pushed aside by my responsibility to create a stable home for my newborn son. I must commit fully to my career as a REALTOR and to my new role as a father.”

In his announcement that he is suspending his campaign, Murphy said he is endorsing Terry.

“He will bring a new direction and fresh perspective that will move DeKalb forward. His experience as Mayor of Clarkston makes him ready to lead from day one,” Murphy said. “Under Ted Terry’s leadership, I have no doubt that Super District 6 and all of DeKalb will reach their full potential.”

Terry was elected mayor of Clarkston in 2013. Prior to his announcement, Terry was a candidate for U.S. Senate but decided to change course because he hadn’t raised enough money to be competitive in that race. Terry said he will resign as mayor in March to begin campaigning for the commission seat.

Qualifying for the commission elections will be in March and according to the Secretary of State’s Office, the General Primary Election will be held on May 19.

Halevy is described as a “smart growth advocate, digital media executive, and mother of two,” according to a recent press release.

“DeKalb has been my home for the past 15 years,” Halevy said in a recent press release. “As a mom, a small business executive and a community advocate, I’m very invested in DeKalb. It would be an honor to serve as DeKalb County’s next Commissioner for Super District 6.”

Editor’s note: If you are running for a DeKalb County office in the 2020 elections, please send your campaign announcements to Be sure to include a photo.

Clarkston loses lawsuit over demolitions

Clarkston, GA – The city of Clarkston tried and failed to stop the North American Mission Board from demolishing two historic homes as part of a plan to build an outreach ministry hub.

The proposed $15 million, 8-acre project will be located on the site of the Clarkston International Bible Church, at 3895 Church Street. The church sold its property to the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention, which plans to convert the site into the outreach ministry hub – including not just a larger church worship space, but a sports complex, multiple retail shops, a medical clinic, new gymnasium, and temporary housing for Baptist mission workers.

To see’s earlier story about this project, click here.

The project required the demolition of homes, but city wouldn’t provide the demolition permit, prompting a lawsuit from NAMB, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The city had placed a moratorium on development at the site while city officials worked to turn the area into a historic district, which would’ve included the homes. A judge in December ordered the city to provide the demolition permits.

The city on Feb. 5 announced that the lawsuit had been settled. Clarkston will also have to pay $25,000 to resolve the lawsuit, the AJC reported.

“The City of Clarkston fought hard to try and preserve two historic homes and l am proud of the courage that the City Council showed in doing so,” Mayor Ted Terry said when the settlement was announced. “However, we ultimately determined that it is now in the best interests of the Clarkston community to give up this fight and focus our efforts and resources on other matters, such as improving infrastructure and revitalizing the city’s downtown. It will be a sad day when these buildings come down but we hope that this settlement can set the foundation for a cooperative relationship with NAMB moving forward.”

NAMB said it was pleased with the outcome.

“NAMB is gratified by the mutual settlement agreement reached with the City,” the group said. “NAMB filed this lawsuit to protect its constitutionally protected property rights and to save its Clarkston development, which NAMB had invested considerable time, effort and resources into completing to advance NAMB’s mission of making a positive difference through. Christian values. The Clarkston development will be an asset to the community that NAMB envisions will have both recreational and educational facilities. We look forward to a positive working relationship with the City and to the successful development of this development.”

Clarkston boosts protections for defendants in its municipal court

After being warned about a possible lawsuit, the city of Clarkston has bolstered legal protections of non-English speaking and indigent defendants who appear in its municipal court.

On Tuesday night, the city council unanimously adopted a resolution that puts additional safeguards in place to ensure no one’s constitutional rights are violated.

“As soon as we were made aware of the issues, we expedited getting solutions to them,” Mayor Ted Terry said. “We take this very seriously and want to make sure we have a fair and just court system.”

In November, the Southern Center for Human Rights sent a letter to city officials that contended the municipal court was imposing illegal jail sentences and failing to provide enough courtroom interpreters.

The Southern Center alleged that the court was imposing “pay-or-jail sentences” — sending defendants into custody if they were unable to pay their fines. Courts have long held that indigent defendants should not be jailed solely if they can’t afford to pay.

Clarkston’s court will now inquire into a defendant’s ability to pay a fine before imposing one and determine if the fine poses a “significant financial hardship,” the resolution said. If such a determination is made, the court can then reduce the fine and convert the sentence to community service.

Similar findings must be made when there is a move to revoke a defendant’s probation because of his or her failure to pay the fine, the resolution said.

With a steady influx of refugees over the past few decades, Clarkston has struggled to find enough interpreters for its increasingly diverse population, the Southern Center said.

The council’s resolution says the city will try and flag potential language issues throughout the process, beginning when police officers identify them when issuing citations. Before they appear in court, defendants will be notified in forms written in seven different languages of the availability of certified interpreters.

When a certain interpreter is unavailable, individuals can call into a “language line” for help. If the interpreter on this call believes the individual is still unable to understand the proceedings, that person’s court date will be rescheduled, the resolution said.

Ebony Brown, one of the Southern Center lawyers who signed the November letter, said she was pleased the city took the action it did.

“We are encouraged to see Clarkston take these important steps towards ensuring constitutional compliance, and we look forward to continuing to work with the city to guarantee that everyone who appears in its municipal court is treated with fairness and dignity,” she said.

The vast majority of cases handled by the court involve traffic citations and some involve alleged code violations, Terry said. Because these are low-level misdemeanor cases, very few people face any jail time, the mayor said.

“It was always our assertion that the concerns brought by the Southern Center were exceptions to the norm,” Terry said. “Passage of this resolution now puts us in the gold standard of how municipal courts in Georgia operate. We are taking a compassionate, equitable and fair-minded approach.”