Damage to city’s reputation, budget could have been limited

Mayor, City Council missed Eagle opportunities

Mayor Kasim Reed may consider the Eagle raid civil lawsuit as a “financial threat” to the city, but he and the Atlanta City Council should have thought of that when they missed important opportunities to address the fallout from the police raid on the popular gay leather bar.

Reed called for the truth about the raid to come out when he was running for office, but now he’s not so sure if he really wants the truth to come out after all.

Reed’s first failure was neglecting to order the Atlanta Police Department officers involved in the raid to testify before the Citizens’ Review Board. He demonstrated a total lack of respect for the board, or the truth.

Ironically, the police union said its members would have been happy to testify before the CRB if they would only be ordered to do so by their superiors, as they believed that would afford them additional protections under the law.

But Reed said police testimony before the CRB could be used against the city in the civil suit later, so it would be like two bites of the apple.

So what does this mean, that the Eagle raid victims can file a CRB complaint or a lawsuit, but not both? What kind of precedent does that set? And how will the court feel, that the city abdicated its oversight and failed to correct the problem in a timely manner?

And then the financial threat comment. I’d like to know, what is the price tag Reed would put on citizens’ constitutional rights?

If Reed was so concerned about financial threats to the city, he should have asked the APD or solicitor general to drop the charges against the eight Eagle employees arrested on business license violations during the raid, before exposing taxpayers to a pointless, costly trial, and the possibility of additional legal actions from the Eagle 8.

The City Council was just as foolish by holding in committee a resolution by Council member Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) that, among other things, would have sought the charges dropped.

Bond is quickly becoming one of the most important allies on the council to the LGBT community and to progressives in Atlanta.

He introduced the resolution not because it was politically easy, but because it was the right thing to do. Expecting a quick approval by the full City Council, he introduced it at the first meeting of the new council in January.

Instead, council members were concerned that the bill also offered an apology for the Eagle raid, which they felt could complicate the city’s position in the civil lawsuit, so the bill was referred to the Public Safety Committee.

Community activists, Eagle owners and staff, and Eagle patrons, including the present writer, mobilized at the committee, asking the council to amend the resolution to drop the language about the apology but to still ask the court to drop the Eagle 8 charges.

We noted the charges against the 8 were completely separate from the lawsuit brought against the city by the patrons.

Moreover, we noted the city was exposing taxpayers to further liability by continuing to pursue the charges, despite having such a weak case against the 8.

And in retrospect, we were right! It was a weak case; all who appeared in court were either found not guilty or had their charges dismissed. And city leaders knew they wouldn’t even ask their own officers to testify about what they did that night, but they didn’t want to drop the charges because it would make it seem like they were mistaken in the first place.

The committee completely wimped out, opting to hold the resolution indefinitely, pending the outcome of the civil lawsuit against the city, even though that could take years to settle.

Since then, they’ve already been found not guilty, but maybe the resolution will still pass in three years? And only after a court of law has found the city in the wrong will the council maybe apologize?

Way to take the high road. At that point, what good will an apology be anyway?

Again bowing to the city’s attorneys — who by the way work for the mayor, not the council — the committee members worried that they did not have the authority to influence court proceedings.

Well, no one ever said they did. We acknowledged they didn’t but we had hoped the council’s resolution could simply ask those with that authority to do so, and that their request would be noticed and considered.

Besides, resolutions which express the will of the council do not always assume jurisdiction over the matter.

For example, a few years ago the City Council approved a resolution to support a national proposal for a U.S. Department of Peace, but that does not mean it assumed to have the authority to create a new federal department single-handedly.

Moreover, there are precedents for legislators getting involved — at least diplomatically, or through friend of the court briefs — in judicial matters. U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson, both Democrats from Atlatna, fought hard to save the life of Troy Davis, who is on death row.

The fact of the matter is, if City Council members wanted to do something, they could have. If Bond’s resolution wasn’t completely perfect, they could’ve amended it. They could have found a way to do something more than nothing at all.

It’s really the city’s loss and the taxpayers’ loss. But for Reed now to call the civil suit a financial burden — and not a moral burden — when he and the council missed chances to save the city money by seeking to drop the charges?

That’s not just shameful, that’s hypocrisy.

Matthew Cardinale is the news editor of atlantaprogressivenews.com. He broke the story of the Eagle raid after arriving at the bar as a patron while the raid was in progress. He can be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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