The city of Brookhaven’s bilingual public engagement specialist, whose outreach specifically included the city’s Hispanic and Latino communities, recently resigned amid an outside review of the communications department.
Claudia Colichon, who was hired last June, gave her notice May 18 and her last day at Brookhaven City Hall was June 1. Her duties included attending and promoting city events and activities.
Because she also spoke Spanish, she conducted outreach to Latino communities, specifically residents living along Buford Highway, and translated city guides and news releases.
For example, last year she represented the city at community meetings for Park Villa apartment residents who were forced to find a new place to live after their complex was purchased to be torn down and replaced with luxury townhomes.
Colichon’s resignation came amidst a review by Bill Crane, owner of CSI Crane, who was hired in April for $10,000 to assess the Communications department.
“Part of that assessment involved interviews and an assessment of our existing staffing within our Department of Communications and Public Engagement, and whether an outside consulting or agency partner model might be of benefit to the city,” Communications Director Burke Brennan said in a written statement.
“As this was happening, Claudia tendered a resignation letter, but it appears to be unrelated to the CSI Crane report,” Brennan said.
Crane was a controversial spokesperson for Tex McIver, recently sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife, Buckhead attorney Diane McIver. Tex McIver was convicted of murder for shooting his wife in the back while seated behind her in a vehicle.
In the hours following the shooting in 2016, Crane told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that McIver was in the back seat of the SUV and pulled his handgun out from the console while riding through Midtown because he was “alarmed about recent unrest surrounding several Black Lives Matter protests in the area and fearing a carjacking.”
Crane’s comments about Black Lives Matter went viral and McIver suffered backlash from the comments.
Brennan said after Colichon’s resignation, the decision was made based on some of Crane’s budgetary advice to not immediately refill the position.
District 1 Councilmember Linley Jones asked at a recent City Council meeting after learning of Colichon’s resignation how the city expected to continue to reach out to the city’s large Latino population. Out of some 54,000 residents in Brookhaven, approximately 25 percent are Hispanic, according to U.S. Census figures.
City Manager Christian Sigman told her that the police department continues to have a strong outreach presence with Hispanic and Latino residents.
He said the city is working to form a relationship with the Latin American Association, located in Brookhaven, to also help with outreach to Hispanic residents.
Jones indicated that she was satisfied with those efforts.
Brennan said the city is working with contractors on translation services.
When Colichon was hired, Brennan praised her for helping the city “break down barriers” with the city’s Spanish-speaking population, noting that many cities are facing language barriers.
Crane’s major recommendation to the city was to consider hiring an outside consultant or agency specifically to monitor complaints against the city made on social media, such as Nextdoor, Facebook and Twitter during events and weekends with a regular twice-weekly summary and with draft responses.
Crane’s report also recommends spending $7,500 to $10,000.00 per month, or a project/quarterly budget in the range of $25,000 to $30,000 for an outside agency.