Council Office Calls Security on APN Editor
(APN) ATLANTA — The City of Atlanta’s City Council Office called security on Atlanta Progressive News’s News Editor–the present writer–while the Monday, August 15, 2011, Full Council Meeting was going on, and only minutes before a court hearing in which APN defeated the City in court.
Officer W. Williams (BADGE #2999) was clearly called as part of an effort to intimidate, harass, and retaliate against Atlanta Progressive News for exposing the City’s ongoing pattern of violating Georgia law.
The present writer has filed a preliminary complaint with the Atlanta Citizens’ Review Board, which oversees Atlanta Police Department conduct.
Cris Beamud of the ACRB has acknowledged receipt of the complaint and requested that the present writer stop by the ACRB office to provide a signature on the complaint. The ACRB will log the complaint, but will likely be unable to begin an investigation unless a similar incident happens again and APN is able to establish a pattern of harassment.
Council President Ceasar Mitchell and Councilwoman Felicia Moore, Chairwoman of the Committee on Council which has oversight of Council operations, were copied on the initial CRB complaint.
As previously reported by APN, while APN’s Editor has been in litigation with the City for Open Meetings violations for nearly two years, the Council has been particularly perturbed after APN published internal memos from the City’s Law Department, showing that the City’s lawyers had advised Council Members to change their meetings practices after APN first raised Open Meetings concerns.
The City had sought a permanent injunction to prevent APN from further publishing the memos, but failed in that bid; the City also sought to hold the present writer in contempt, and the Judge denied that motion as well.
The hearing regarding the injunction took place at 3pm Monday, while the Full Council meeting was going on.
Prior to the start of the hearing, APN’s Editor stopped by the Council Office to make an inquiry regarding public comment with the staff of Council President Ceasar Mitchell.
Linda, a contractor with Mitchell’s office, came out to respond to the present writer’s question. She returned to the back to get an answer, but instead of returning, called “Linden” at the front desk, who stated that APN’s request had to be posed to the Law Department.
Linden refused to provide the spelling of his first name, as well as his last name, to APN.
APN’s Editor replied to Linden that the inquiry being made had nothing to do with pending litigation and that, as a citizen and taxpayer of the City of Atlanta, the present writer has a right to petition his elected representives in government. In addition, the present writer noted that the Law Department has historically not been responsive to any inquiries.
Upon request, Linden related that information back to Mitchell’s office, which again responded that any inquiry had to be made to the Law Department.
The present writer then stated that a witness needed to be present to observe this interaction; left to find Brother Anthony Muhammad in Council Chambers; and returned two minutes later.
By that time, Linda was waiting in front of the Council Office, along with Officer Williams and City Attorney Eric Richardson.
APN asked Officer Williams why she was there, and she said she wasn’t sure, but that she had been called over because of someone.
After returning into the Council Office, Linden told APN that security had been called because APN’s Editor was “getting upset.” This is ridiculous, seeing as how the present writer was neither shouting, making threats, nor doing anything to warrant security being called. It is not immediately clear whether the Council Office or Council President Mitchell’s Office had called security.
The City of Atlanta’s Gestapo-like tactics are the latest in their efforts to have a chilling effect on citizens in their exercise of their First Amendment rights under the US Constitution.
The City’s multi-faceted attack on the First Amendment began when the City Council took a secret vote in February 2010 over whether to limit public comment at Council Committees.
It continued as Council Members held closed-door Committee Briefings, Committee Chairs’ Briefings, and other ad hoc meetings to discuss substantive City policy in violation of the Open Meetings Act.
Both Georgia’s Open Records and Open Meetings Acts are grounded in the First Amendment.
The City of Atlanta then attacked Freedom of the Press, by seeking to prevent publication of damning internal memos provided to APN by a whistleblower.
Now the City’s message to citizens is clear: Expose us for violating the Law, and we’ll have security and the Law Department follow you around City Hall, at the expense of taxpayer dollars.
Incidentally, Senior Assistant City Attorney Lemuel Ward raised his voice towards APN’s Editor near the elevator of the Fulton County Superior Courthouse after court on Monday, behaving in a manner akin to a raging lunatic. If Mr. Ward does this again, APN’s Editor will be sure to call security.
APN has also learned from numerous sources that the City of Atlanta has also been harassing, intimidating, and threatening City employees, including Council Members, as part of their inquisition into who was the whistleblower who released the memos to APN.
The Full Council went into Executive Session for about two hours Monday to discuss the present writer. It is not immediately clear whether the Executive Session was substantively appropriate nor whether laws regarding minimal public disclosure were followed.
Meanwhile, upon APN’s review of the State Bar of Georgia’s Rules of Professional Conduct, APN has determined it appears that several City Attorneys have violated rule 3.1, which states that a lawyer shall not “knowingly advance a claim or defense that is unwarranted under existing law.” City Attorneys continue to defend practices in Court that they told their own clients were illegal.
Two Open Meetings lawsuits between the present writer and the City are still pending: the secret vote lawsuit of 2010 is now before the Georgia Supreme Court, which has granted review; and the closed-door Committee Briefings lawsuit is currently in discovery in Fulton County Superior.
The Georgia Attorney General’s Office has drafted its own lawsuit against the City related to the closed-door Briefings. The City is running out of time to enter into a consent decree in order to prevent the AG’s office from filing their own action.
The City also has about one week left to provide APN’s Editor with answers to almost fifty interrogatories posed to all seven Council Chairs, in addition to significant requests for document production. Their Answers are likely to provide a window into even more shady internal City of Atlanta operations.
(END / 2011)