APN Special Video: Lamar Willis’s Greatest Hits
(APN) ATLANTA — Ethically challenged Atlanta City Councilman Lamar Willis (Post 3-at-large), sensing that he is about to lose his bid for reelection, has engaged in attacking challenger Andre Dickens and one of Dickens’s supporters, former Mayor Shirley Franklin.
However, engaging in verbal attacks is not exactly a new strategy or practice for Mr. Willis.
Atlanta Progressive News has compiled a new video, available on the APN Video Section, called Lamar Willis’s Greatest Hits, which shows three examples just from the year 2012 alone, of Willis using his position on the Council to verbally attack citizens or city employees at meetings of the Full Council and its Committees.
The video is available online:
First, the video shows Willis attacking and implicitly threatening Ron Shakir at the October 30, 2012 Public Safety/Legal Administration (PS/LA) Cmte Meeting. Second, the video shows Willis attacking Public Defender Rosalie Joy at the May 01, 2012 PS/LA Cmte Meeting, causing her to eventually faint, apparently out of shock. Third, the video shows Willis attacking William Perry, Executive Director of Common Cause Georgia (CCG), at the January 03, 2012 Full Council Meeting.
“Don’t say another word to me. Don’t say a word directly to me, don’t do it. Because I will be removed from office,” Willis said to Shakir towards the end of his remarks, apparently implying that if Shakir said another word that he would physically attack Shakir, which would further result in Willis presumably being removed from office.
“You will not disrespect me in a public space. So you need to figure out who you are, because I know whose I am, and I know how to deal with people who disrespect who I am,” Willis said at the end of his remarks.
Willis was upset because Shakir generally said that Willis, who is Black, is racist towards Black people who are less wealthy or educated.
“I don’t challenge you when you split verbs. I don’t challenge you when you make up words,” Willis advised Shakir.
After attacking Shakir for his grammar, he then addressed a point Shakir made in his earlier remarks, where he claimed that Willis was trying to get rid of Black street vendors in the City of Atlanta because, according to Shakir, Willis looks down upon them for their lack of higher education.
“I have no affinity for or against anybody with or without a degree. I have no problem with anyone who doesn’t have a degree,” Willis said.
Willis also attacked Shakir for his ongoing regular attendance at City Council meetings, with no regard to the sacrifice of personal time and resources that it requires of citizens to attend such meetings.
“So now, once you figure out what you need to do with the rest of your life besides sit in a Cmte Meeting, then we can have another conversation,” Willis said.
“But if you want to have a conversation with me that’s less than appropriate, do it off camera in a space where we can have a real conversation man to man,” Willis said.
“When would be a good time?” Shakir asked.
“You tell me when,” Willis said.
“When you get off this Cmte,” Shakir said.
“You’re absolutely right, and I’ll make sure the police follow us so they can lock you up for the criminal acts that you continue to perpetuate when you make threats, cause I tell you I keep promises,” Willis said.
It is not clear what threats Shakir has ever made, or what criminal acts Shakir has ever undertaken.
“When you attack me personally, believe me I understand how to do the same,” Willis said.
“I sit here and listen to you, allow you to espouse the craziness that you espouse every day and every week that you come up here,” Willis said.
After several minutes of being berated by Willis, Public Defender Rosalie Joy fainted at approximately the 14 minutes and 20 second mark on the APN video compilation.
Willis falsely accused her of not answering his question, of being deceptive, and of inappropriately inserting her opinion into her response.
Willis’s original question to Joy, although he later posed it a few times in several substantively different variations, apparently becoming confused as to what his own question was–even while accusing Joy of not answering his question–was “When was the last time we looked at how to do business truly differently?”
By that, Willis later explained, he meant that he was interested in possibly eliminating the Office of the Public Defender and replacing it with a privatization model, where the City would contract with private attorneys to provide legal defense for indigent people accused of municipal crimes.
Willis was basically asking Joy to defend the existence of her office.
“I’m happy you asked that question and I’m happy to report to you that I’ve thought about that as well,” Joy replied to Willis.
Joy said that one way her office has responded to increasing case loads–that have resulted in part from the City of Atlanta hiring one hundred new police officers–is by partnering with law firms and law schools to provide interns.
Previously, Joy explained that the Office of the Public Defender over the last four years had had its budget cut from about four million dollars to about 1.4 million dollars, and its staff cut from 51 employees to seventeen employees during the same time period.
During that time, Joy said that her office’s caseload had already doubled.
This year, she was asking for an additional 325,000 dollars.
Willis was not satisfied with the answer, so he re-posed the question.
Joy replied that whether provided through an Office of the Public Defender or through some other way, that the City has a constitutional responsibility to provide legal representation for indigent persons.
“Have we thought about how we can do it differently? My answer, respectfully, is yes, I have thought about that. That’s why we have a robust intern system and that’s why the Court actually charges fifty dollars for an application fee for anyone who has a demonstrated ability to pay it,” Joy said.
Joy also pointed out that, “Other jurisdictions have separate offices that may not be called Public Defender Offices, they’re Administrative offices where they maintain a list of private attorneys they can call upon whenever there’s a need for a case to be represented by a free lawyer.”
“I will tell you, I’ve looked very closely at it and you will not find, I haven’t found a system like that… they’re not doing it for cheaper than a million dollars. The unique thing the City of Atlanta has… you have a group of people who are managing cases not on a per-case fee basis. Where you have a system where you have private counsel coming in… they’re getting paid on a per-case basis,” Joy said.
“I’m gonna push back just a little bit… What you’re telling me is not that you’ve thought about how to do it differently, in my opinion what you’ve told me is that you’ve figured out how to meet your caseload,” Willis said.
Then, Councilman Ivory Young (District 3) raised a question regarding whether if someone’s case was bound from the Municipal Court of the City of Atlanta over to Fulton County for lack of a public defender, whether any fees or fines assessed in the case would be allocated to the City, or whether the County would receive the fees.
“Would the Public Defender’s Office or the City of Atlanta Municipal Court be reimbursed for any of that preliminary work we did prior to bindover, and the answer is no. If a case is adjudicated in Fulton County, Fulton County will reap the benefit of any fine imposed,” Joy said.
Young also asked whether the City would violate the rights provided when reading someone their Miranda rights by not providing representation to those who cannot afford private representation. Councilwoman Cleta Winslow (District 4) asked a similar question, to which Joy answered yes.
“We’ve taken some great liberties in how we describe how the system works,” Willis said.
“This idea that somehow we’re somehow violating Miranda rights… this went way, this got kind of crazy, I thought you’d at least help Mr. Young out, but in reality you kind of helped him keep going,” Willis said.
“This idea that it would cost more is a ruse,” Willis said. “And I have no problem with us having a Public Defender. But at the point when we start mischaracterizing in some respects what’s going on, I have a problem,” Willis said.
“Because now, we’re sitting here acting like all of a sudden when people get arrested in the City of Atlanta, we’d be violating the Constitution and that’s just not true, there are ways to address it to not deal with it. I’m not suggesting that that’s what we do, but I think when you characterize it as such, it is a misrepresentation to this Council and at best, what I asked for, was I asked the question, have we thought about other ways to do it?” Willis said.
Willis’s accusation that Joy deceived the Council is simply not correct. Mr. Young had asked whether, if someone had to bind over to Fulton County for lack of legal representation, whether the County would receive any fees; and that is the question Joy answered.
When Winslow asked whether someone’s Constitutional rights would be violated if the City did not provide a Public Defender, Joy even explicitly stated that the City could provide either a Public Defender or a private attorney. “And I think that’s what Councilman Willis is alluding to,” she said.
Yet, Willis falsely accused her of deception.
“And I thought a responsible leader in the Public Defenders’ Office would say, guess what we’ll go do a white paper… But when we’re having a policy discussion it is not appropriate I think to get in the middle of what’s best and why it should be that way. You tell us what the facts are, that’s what I believe needs to happen, and right now I feel it has been mischaracterized to some level to my colleagues, and I believe in an inappropriate way. So I have to admit that I’m somewhat frustrated in how it was allowed to sort of just spiral out of control in terms of what’s going on, because that’s not what happens,” Willis said.
“All I asked for was a good question, and to answer Mr. Young’s question, you didn’t have to say…” Willis said, pausing to laugh.
“Councilman Willis, if I may,” Joy attempted to respond.
“I still have the floor so no you can’t,” Willis said.
“I’m sorry. I apologize for interrupting,” Joy said.
“What I asked for is, are there other models that exist? The simple answer is yes there are. Is there a way it could be done without people’s rights being violated? The answer is yes there is. Is there a way other municipalities in the State of Georgia do it? The answer is absolutely,” Willis said.
Here, Willis–in accusing Joy of not answering his question–apparently lost track of what his question was. “Have you thought of other ways to do it” had morphed into “are there other models that exist; is there a way it could be done without people’s rights being violated; and is there a way other municipalities in the State of Georgia do it?”
“And then question then can be, is this the best way to do it, and that calls for your opinion and you can give it all day long… but those weren’t the questions, you gave the answer long before we ever got there. And so, it becomes fundamentally a problem, because then as a policymaker you’ve inserted your opinion in what I need in terms of factual information, Willis said.
“At the point I believe there’s misinformation out there I fundamentally have a problem with it because your job is not to misinform this body,” Willis said.
When Willis relinquished the floor, Joy began to ask whether she could respond, “Could I …?”
Chairman Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large), however, began to introduce Chief Judge Crystal Gaines, not providing Joy an opportunity to respond.
By then, Joy appeared to be physically hanging on to the podium and her legs began to appear to buckle. Shortly after Young began speaking again, Joy fell on the floor. Bond then recessed the meeting.
Willis attacked Perry and CCG for criticizing the questionable airport concessions selection process and for recommending that the Council adopt pay-to-play legislation.
Willis said that Perry and CCG did not have clean hands because their Board of Directors is not diverse. Willis led Perry through a lengthy questioning about how many Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, women, and “gays” are on the CCG Board.
Willis then said that because CCG’s Board was not demographically representative of Atlanta that it was not qualified to criticize the airport contracts or make policy recommendations.