Political Notes — Group starts late drive against JQC amendment

[private]A coalition of civil rights groups — Georgians for Judicial Integrity — has launched a late-breaking campaign against passage of the constitutional amendment that would terminate the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC).

“Under the changes being proposed, this well-regarded version of the JQC would be abolished and replaced with a new commission comprised of members appointed by legislative leaders – a blatant political power grab,” said Sara Totonchi, executive director of the Southern Center for Human Rights.

“Our founders devised a system with three co-equal branches of government,” said Francys Johnson, state president of the Georgia NAACP. “This amendment concentrates too much power in the executive and legislative branches, and that is not right.”

The anti-amendment group is getting a very late start in the process — it announced its formation exactly four weeks prior to election day, with thousands of early ballots having already been cast.

If approved by the voters, the constitutional amendment would dissolve the JQC, the agency that investigates complaints against judges, and replace it with a commission controlled by the General Assembly.

Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), who sponsored the legislation, has held several public hearings that have focused on the JQC’s handling of two controversial cases involving now-retired judges: Cynthia Becker of DeKalb County and Mitchell Scoggins of Bartow County.

Board of Regents to vote on Olens

The Board of Regents is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the appointment of Attorney General Sam Olens as the new president of Kennesaw State University in Cobb County.

Since Olens is the only candidate whose name has been forwarded by the University System, his confirmation is all but official.

In appointing Olens, however, the Regents will be violating their own well-established policies and procedures that they have followed for many years in selecting a university president.

In nearly other case where a president retires or resigns, the Regents appoint a search committee — which is announced via press release — that spends several weeks interviewing and assessing candidates from across the country.

That search committee usually forwards the names of three finalists to the Regents, who then vote on the person selected for the president’s job.

None of that was done in this instance: no search committee, no national search, no list of finalists to choose from.

The Regents are also about to appoint a president whose presence on campus has been vigorously protested by faculty and students. The latest protest, a “silent” one, was staged Monday, as reported by the Marietta Daily Journal:

The “silent” part of the protest was visible on many participants’ faces, as their mouths were covered by strips of paper with messages such as “National search” and “No voice,” referring to Olens’ selection as the sole nominee for the president job. . . .

Faculty members at the protest took issue with the manner through which Olens was picked as the sole candidate for the job.

“We very recently learned, through the media actually, that Sam Olens was being considered, and told in a letter, the first official announcement from our chancellor, who told us that he considered a national search, but after talking to Sam Olens, decided Sam Olens was who he would put forward,” said April Munson, assistant director of KSU’s School of Art and Design, who was one of the faculty members who attended Monday’s protest. “So without hearing anyone else’s voice in this, that was a decision he made.” . . .

Eden Ryan, a senior from Kennesaw majoring in anthropology and philosophy, said she believed the next president of her university should be experienced in academia and the needs of students and faculty.

“Everybody I’ve talked to generally understands the fact that there hasn’t been a search for somebody, and they’re upset about that, especially the fact that Sam doesn’t have any kind of experience in education, like he hasn’t been a dean or anything like that,” Ryan said.

© 2016 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Board of Regents , constitutional amendment , JQC , kennesaw state , Sam Olens