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local govt & politics

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Donald Trump in Dayton

Super Tuesday highlights

A look at who won and who lost on Super Tuesday. Staff video by Anthony Shoemaker.

Why students don't have to stand for Pledge of Allegiance in Florida

Compiled from Associated Press and Florida News Service reports.

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Students excused from having to daily recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Florida public schools would no longer have to stand and hold their hands over their heart either, under a bill that is headed to the House floor.

The House Education Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill (HB 1403) that would change how students are notified of their right to skip the daily pledge and what the excused student must do during the pledge.

Current law requires schools to conspicuously post a notice, telling students they don’t have to recite the pledge if a parent asks in writing for a student to be excused. The law also requires excused students to still stand and hold their hands over their hearts while the pledge is recited.

The bill would allow the notice to instead be placed in a student handbook, and excused students would no longer be required to stand or hold their hands over their hearts.

The bill was filed after a parent of a child at a Panhandle school told the school district it was not following notice requirements. A Senate companion bill has not yet been heard in the first of its three required committees.

Mayor didn't have time to hear citizens' concerns, rushed to pizza party

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A Michigan mayor said residents who wanted to plead with the City Council to save their homes couldn't speak because officials had a pizza party planned after the meeting.

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Randy Walker, the mayor of Garden City, and City Council members walked out of a session without listening to the concerns of at least seven former homeowners facing eviction.

Walker said the meeting’s main purpose was to swear in new officials.

“It’s a happy occasion,” Walker said. “We had food waiting. We had pizza coming out of the oven at 7:45 (p.m.)”

“That’s a (poor) excuse,” Nicholis P. Dunsky told The Detroit News. “We felt like we didn’t matter.”

Dunsky's home was foreclosed because of back taxes, and he faces eviction. He brought his family to the council meeting.

According to The News, Walker said those meetings generally don't allow public comment.

Read more here.

Cute photo: Young boy awarded Junior Deputy badge

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A young boy was awarded a St. Johns County Sheriff's Office Junior Deputy badge by a SJSO deputy.

Kristine Gill captured the interaction between Deputy Rafael Fuentes and her grandson Emerson in a heartwarming the photo.

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Gill said Emerson was playing in the driveway with his parents and Fuentes stopped to award the boy a Junior Deputy badge.

Fuentes even turned on his siren and lights for him, Gill said.

Gill wrote that it is nice to see "great officers out there."

Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan told WJAXTV that Fuentes "is very involved with children to include Special Olympics and our Police Athletic League. He is currently our Guy White Recipient, which is our Deputy of the Year."

DeKalb CEO Lee May defends himself to residents

Upcoming community meetings

Interim DeKalb County CEO May plans to talk with residents during seven more community meetings. Each meeting will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

  • Thursday, Tucker-Reid Cofer Library
  • Oct. 20, Derwin Brown Memorial South Precinct in Decatur
  • Oct. 22, Welcome Friend Baptist Church in Ellenwood
  • Oct. 26, Maloof Auditorium in Decatur
  • Oct. 27, Dunwoody City Hall
  • Nov. 3, Stonecrest Library
  • Nov. 5, Brookhaven City Hall

Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May told a packed room of residents Tuesday night that he takes responsibility for an expensive corruption investigation that resulted in a direct attack on his leadership.

The crowd of more than 250 people included supporters — some of whom waved signs reading “Stay Strong May” and “We believe in Lee” — and opponents who doubted whether he was up to the job.

Both sides called on May to explain spending so much money on the $850,000 investigation that ended with a report that he said was wasteful.

“My motives were pure. I wanted to get down to what we were doing in our day-to-day operations,” May told residents at the Lou Walker Senior Center in Lithonia. “I got something different than that. … I’m still upset.”

One citizen, Audrey Hinds, said May needs to be held accountable for the investigation that resulted in calls for his resignation.

“Do you take responsibility for your leadership?” Hinds asked. “You called them in” to conduct the investigation.

May said he has to live with his decision to hire the investigators, Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde, and he asked residents to read their report and assess its findings. He said he’ll do the same and work to improve services to residents.

The meeting was the first opportunity for residents to confront May since an investigative report on DeKalb corruption called for him to resign was released Sept. 30.

May acknowledged that he’s spent “quiet time” pondering his political future, and he has previously said he won’t step down unless he’s asked to by the taxpayers of the county. May, who was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal as CEO more than two years ago, will face an election next year.

Lloyd Alaman said he still supports May.

“To me this whole ordeal is nothing more than a witch hunt,” Alaman said. “We stand behind you, and please do not resign.”

The corruption report faulted May and other elected officials for “a stunning lack of leadership” that destroyed public confidence in the integrity of the county’s government.

The report took aim at May for suspicions about county-paid repairs to his flooded house, expenses he made on a business trip to Hawaii and money he borrowed from a subordinate.

May told residents Tuesday that the repairs were the county’s responsibility, he paid for personal travel expenses, and his borrowing of small amounts wasn’t inappropriate.

“I need you to hear it from me: I’ve never taken any money. I’ve never stolen any money,” May said.

But some residents called on May to answer for problems beyond those cited in the corruption report.

They asked May what he was going to do about crime, litter and a lack of enough jobs.

“I’ve seen this county go from wonderful to worse than awful,” said Sandy Morris. “Why should I stay here? I have to fight to get services. I want to see some action or I’m gone.”

Charles Peagler told May he made a mistake when he spent so much of taxpayers’ money on the investigation when residents, especially in South DeKalb, believe those funds could have been better spent on improving their communities.

“That money could have been used to clean up the county,” Peagler told May. “You have to take care of your home first.”

Florida lawmakers will live on minimum wage for a week

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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At least 18 Florida lawmakers plan to live on a minimum wage this week to draw attention to efforts to increase the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Senators Geraldine Thompson and Victor Torres from Orlando and John Cortes from Kissimmee are participating in the minimum wage challenge.              Starting Monday, the lawmakers will live for five days on $17 per day.

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That figure represents what a minimum wage worker has after taxes, childcare and housing are deducted from an $8.05-an-hour paycheck. The lawmakers -- mostly Democrats -- will also go grocery shopping with a minimum wage worker at the start of the week.  State Sen. Dwight Bullard and Torres are pushing legislation to increase Florida's current minimum wage from $8.05 to $15 an hour.

An increasing number of cities around the country are moving toward a $15 minimum wage.

Cabral Franklin, son of former Mayor Shirley Franklin, has died

Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this report.

Cabral Franklin, an Atlanta political operative and son of former mayor Shirley Franklin, died Tuesday from complications of cancer, his family has confirmed.

“My dear son passed away today surrounded by his family. He was deeply loved. I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers,” Shirley Franklin said in a statement Tuesday.

Franklin — considered one of the state Democratic party’s most integral figures — was the managing partner of Franklin Communications LLC, a political communications firm. According to his online bio, he helped manage the operations of the Democratic Party of Georgia’s Coordinated Campaign, in addition to several city and state campaigns and initiatives.

Franklin is the husband of political fundraiser Candice Franklin and father to their two daughters.

“I’ve lost my best friend and love of my life, and the father of my daughters,” Candice Franklin said in a statement. “We’ll miss him and cherish his memory always. He will be in our hearts each and every day of our lives.”

His longtime business partner, Chris Carpenter, said he was devastated by Franklin’s sudden passing. Franklin had battled lung cancer, though he was not a smoker, since his diagnosis last year.

“All politics aside, he just understood people and politics better than any person I’ve ever known. He just got it, and so bright and talented,” Carpenter said, adding: “It’s a huge loss for the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia.”

Former gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter described Franklin as one of his best friends in politics and a “brilliant political mind.”

“I honestly would not do anything without running it by Cabral and that’s the same advice I gave to everyone else who ever came to me for political advice,” Carter said. “I miss him enormously.”

For more on Franklin’s life and work, and recollections from those who knew him, visit MyAJC.com

Online condolences: Read and sign the AJC's online guestbook for Cabral Franklin

Atlanta investigating whether fire stations were used in sex ads

Mayor Kasim Reed’s office is investigating the use of an Atlanta fire station for photos reportedly advertising escort services.

The images, which depict multiple women posing provocatively in front of a fire truck and wearing Atlanta Fire Rescue gear, appeared on the website Backpage Georgia, Channel 2 Action News reports.

Backpage, an online classifieds portal, advertises escort services. It has also been accused of facilitating sex trafficking.

Channel 2 Action News located advertisements, listed as recently as Sunday, of a woman striking risque poses at an Atlanta fire station. The caption reads “Absolutely Astonishing” and “vip service available all night.” The ad states that the woman is 22 years old.

WXIA also found online ads for escort services depicting women posing suggestively.

A spokeswoman for Reed’s office said the women in the photos are not city employees. The mayor’s office has launched an internal investigation into the matter, spokeswoman Anne Torres said.

The head of the Atlanta Professional Firefighters union says employees shouldn’t be punished for the incident. To learn why, visit MYAJC.com.

State senator resigns immediately

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Quick Facts:

  • Senator Rick Brinkley pleads guilty to federal charges 
  • Thursday morning agencies announced six charges against former senator Rick Brinkley
  • All charges involve an embezzlement case against the senator
  • He resigned effective immediately Thursday morning. 

State Senator Rick Brinkley pleaded guilty to federal charges on Thursday morning.

He pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud and tax evasion.

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Several agencies charged an Oklahoma senator in an embezzelment investigation on Thursday. The US Attorney of the Northern District, Danny Williams Sr., held a news conference with the FBI, the Criminal Investigation unit of the FBI and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to announce charges against Rick Brinkley.

FOX23's Lynn Casey attended the conference:

<iframe src="//storify.com/FOX23News/rick-brinkley-faces-federal-charges/embed?header=none&amp;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/FOX23News/rick-brinkley-faces-federal-charges.js?header=none&amp;border=false"></script>[View the story "Rick Brinkley faces federal charges " on Storify]

Officials announced five federal wire fraud chages involving money from the Better Business Bureau. Brinkley also faces a count of tax evasion for hiding part of that money from the IRS.

Investigators linked the embezzlement to a significant gambling probelm.  Brinkley could face 20 years in prison for the wire fraud and three years on tax evasion. No one else is being investigated.

Brinkley resigned in early August amid allegations of embezzlement at the nonprofit agency he where he once worked. He settled with the agency in an agreement with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.   His resignation would have gone into effect Dec. 31.

The senator resigned effective immediately on Thursday morning. 

The immediate resignation was encouraged by Oklahoma State Auditor Gary Jones, who said "It's one thing to ive him the benefit of the doubt."

"It's another when he admits guilt," Jones said. "He's not serving his constituents and needs to come off the state payroll now."

Brinkley could still face state charges. 

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