The Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Board met for its regular monthly meeting Monday and discussed how to replace a board member who resigned last month.
A draft application was handed out to board members at Monday's meeting and included a consent form for a background check by the APD as required in the board's by-laws. Board members will review the application that was determined from information gathered in the board's by-laws and email suggestions to board chair Glen Paul Freedman by this weekend.
Once an application is approved, it will be submitted to the Atlanta Police LGBT liaisons, Senior Patrol Officer Patricia Powell and Officer Brian Sharp, for final approval for the background checks before it is made public for those seeking a spot on the voluntary board.
Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Board announces process to select new member
The draft application notes that the board has seats for nine representatives from various groups of the LGBT communities — transgender, people of color, homeowners/neighborhoods, businesses, youth, AIDS service organizations and nonprofit and event-driven organizations.
Questions on the draft application include naming which group an applicant represents, what contributions can be made to the board, and professional skills that might be helpful to serve on the board.
The board outlined a tentative time schedule, depending on the number of applications received: Have all applications turned in by the Oct. 17 meeting, then discuss them and possibly select the new board member at the Nov. 21 meeting.
Other items discussed at Monday’s meeting:
• Chairperson Glen Paul Freedman issued a public apology for not getting enough board feedback on the date set for the town hall forum with Mayor Kasim Reed and Chief George Turner. The original date was Sept. 28, which is the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. After some backlash from Jewish LGBT people, the date was rescheduled to Nov. 1 from 7-8:30 p.m. at St. Mark United Methodist Church.
“As chair, I am taking responsibility,” Freedman said. “I apologize to the board members and should have given board members more chance to speak on the date.”
In a Sept. 2 open letter sent to Rabbi Josh Lesser of Congregation Bet Haverim, the gay and lesbian founded Reconstructionist synagogue that was among those that raised its concerns for the Sept. 28 date, Freedman also apologized for the date.
“The LGBT community in Atlanta that we all share in is vastly diverse in belief, background, identity and affiliation. Given these complex dynamics, it is next to impossible to schedule an event without conflicting with some part of our community,” Freedman wrote.
“This year, the Jewish community has endured well beyond its fair share of scheduling conflicts, not the least of which is Atlanta Pride and the opening night of Out on Film,” Freedman wrote in the letter, stating that is why the board eventually agreed to move the date of the forum to Nov. 1.
Board member Betty Couvertier went on record saying she opposed the Sept. 28 date from the beginning in emails with other board members but did not receive any feedback.
The letter was sent on Aug. 25 and board members were told they would receive answers about punishments within weeks. The mayor promised a “global review” of the punishments handed down to officers involved in the unconstitutional raid in his July 29 private meeting with board members.
The letter was also sent to Reese McCranie, the openly gay deputy director of communications for Reed, as well as the city’s Chief Operating Officer Peter Aman and Deputy Chief Renee Propes, Freedman said.
In the letter, the board asked specifically about topics raised at a heated meeting of the board on Aug. 21 in which the board was accused of being “puppets” of the mayor. Those topics include:
1. The city’s results from the thoroughly investigative review of these five officers in the Atlanta Eagle gay bar raid. The five police officers are Sgt. Kelly Collier, Officer Marlon Noble, Officer Dimitri Jaques, Officer Dion Meredith and Officer William Walters. These officers were accused of lying or destroying evidence, and were only disciplined, and avoided being fired.
2. The status of Atlanta Police Department complying with the Civil Action File No. 1:09-VC-3286-TCB The City of Atlanta – Atlanta Police Department – Exhibit A: Reforms of the Atlanta Police Department that include: Identification requirements for APD Officers; officers in uniform must wear a visible name tag; documentation of warrantless seizures; documentation of ID checks; training for all officers in 4th amendment; timely resolution of citizen complaints and citizen complaints of police misconduct of any kind to be completed within 180 days of the complaint.
“It’s unfortunate we have not gotten an answer,” Freedman said. The board decided the letter should be resent to the same people including the fact that they have not received the answers they were promised.
• Couvertier also wanted to express again her dismay with the board’s decision to meet in private sessions with Reed and Turner. She raised the issue that the decision appears to have violated the state’s Open Records and Meeting law. Tracy Elliott said it was time to move on and that Couvertier had expressed her point of view on numerous occasions.
“I can’t understand why we cannot move beyond this. You’ve made your opinions clear. Let’s not wallow in this,” Elliott said to Couvertier.
“I want to know if we are going to continue breaking the law? I’ve sent you all copies of the Sunshine Law,” Couvertier said.
“It depends on what happens,” a frustrated Elliott said.
“We need to understand what happens with the media is closed out,” said board member Tracee McDaniel. “We are revisiting the same issue. But obviously the entire board isn’t satisfied.”
“We cannot satisfy that board member [Couvertier] because she is unhappy with what we did,” Elliott said.
“I definitely want us to be clear about us making statements about breaking the law,” said board member Terence McPhaul.
The board received a letter from the city attorney stating it did not break any law when it met with the mayor and police chief in closed door meetings. However, the city is being sued by Atlanta Progressive News Editor Matthew Cardinale who alleges the city has violated the Open Records Meeting Act numerous times. He has included the Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Board’s meetings with the mayor and chief as examples of the city violating the law.
“We got a letter from the city attorney’s office saying we are not in violation. I’m not sure what else we can do,” said board member Josh Noblitt.
“There is still wide interpretation of if we are a governing board,” Elliott added.
“I certainly don’t want it to happen again,” Couvertier said.