County to name new PIO

CONYERS -- Erica Fatima, an employee with the Georgia Department of Transportation, will become Rockdale County's new Director of Public Affairs and Media Relations, it was announced Monday.

The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners will vote on filling the position today. Fatima was presented by Jeff Pogue, the county director of Human Relations, during agenda review at Monday's work session as the candidate who will be presented for the job.

Fatima is currently deputy press secretary for GDOT, a position she has held since 2008. She had held several positions with the Rockdale County Public Schools that included secretary-level positions for human relations and public relations in the schools' Central Offices and as a data entry clerk at Salem High School, according to personnel records obtained by the Citizen.

If approved today, Fatima will succeed Julie Mills, who left the post in July after 18 years. Deputy Public Affairs Director Holly Lafontaine has filled in since that time as the interim director. Lafontaine was also a finalist for the job, along with Lisa King, public relations manager for an Atlanta information security firm and former press officer for Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin.

Commissioner JaNice Van Ness asked if she could meet with Fatima, noting that she and Commissioner Oz Nesbitt had been left out of the hiring process.

"You're asking us to vote on somebody who we haven't met," she said.

Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden disagreed, noting the last-minute request from Van Ness. Oden said he spoke with Rockdale County School Superintendent Sam King and others who were familiar with Fatima and he was assured she was well qualified and capable of doing the job with the county.

Nesbitt said he disagreed with Van Ness' request but wanted to be more involved in the hiring process of director-level positions in the future.

"To have HR come here and have a person go through the interview process, and then at the last minute say you need to go through another interview," Nesbitt said. "Today's Monday and tomorrow is Tuesday and to ask for this, well, it looks tacky and like we don't have our act together." Nesbitt then asked Pogue and Chief of Staff Greg Pridgeon to come up with a policy or "mechanism" to put the two part-time commissioners in the interview process for the future.