The Atlanta City Council today approved a settlement of $250,000 to an HIV positive man who sued the city when he was allegedly denied a job with the city's police department because of his HIV status.
Richard Roe, the plaintiff's pseudonym used throughout the lawsuit, first applied to the Atlanta Police Department in early 2006, but was denied employment due to his HIV status, his lawsuit claimed. According to Lambda Legal, who represented Roe: "During a pre-employment medical exam, the APD learned that Roe was HIV-positive, and the doctor informed Roe that his HIV status disqualified him from becoming a police officer with the APD."
The check for the full amount was made to Richard Roe and The Koval Firm, owned by Steve Koval, a gay attorney who has represented Roe from the beginning before getting assistance from Lamba Legal.
Roe sued the city when he wasn't hired. City lawyers first maintained that Atlanta did not have a policy against hiring police officers with HIV, then later claimed that his HIV status presented a "direct threat" to others.
"Actions speak louder than words," said Koval in a previous statement.
There's an interesting op-ed piece in Creative Loafing today written by an Atlanta Police Department detective who calls on supervisors to provide mentoring to young officers in light of a string of controversies facing the APD.
Det. Ken Allen, president of the Atlanta Police Union (International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 623), writes in CL that recent accusations against APD officers violating the constitutional rights of citizens are "isolated incidents that are few and far between in comparison to the normal law enforcement behaviors of Atlanta police officers."
While the Atlanta Eagle raid happened more than a year ago, this raid and the officers' behavior were ruled by a federal judge as definite violations of the constitutional rights of the patrons in the bar who were forced to lay on the floor among spilled beer and broken glass while the paramilitary Red Dog Unit illegally searched and detained them. No patrons were charged in the raid and the city eventually settled a federal civil lawsuit in December for more than $1 million.
While nobody involved in the Eagle raid settlement with the city will discuss on the record the exact amount of money the plaintiffs are receiving, one person close to the case who asked to not be identified said the amount received by the plaintiffs was “considerably more than $10,000 per person.”
Plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit against the city who sued because their constitutional rights were violated during the infamous Sept. 10, 2009, raid on the Midtown gay bar picked up their checks today.
In a report on Wednesday, GA Voice reported that plaintiff Johnnie Curran said he was told that the average amount the plaintiffs received was about $10,000.
The lead attorney and plaintiffs who sued the city of Atlanta over the botched 2009 raid of the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar, praised the settlement agreement signed by a federal judge today. But they continued to stress that their lawsuit should not have been necessary to force Atlanta police to change unconstitutional policies.
"This is a wonderful change for the city of Atlanta — to get the Atlanta Police Department to follow the law," lead attorney Dan Grossman said in an interview this afternoon. "It's really a shame it took a lawsuit to make the APD follow the law."
Richard Ramey, co-owner of the Atlanta Eagle, echoed Grossman's sentiments.
"I feel vindicated and relieved. I feel that everyone in the city, from the mayor to the city council, realized something went wrong," he said.
The Atlanta City Council is in executive session now debating a settlement in the federal lawsuit filed over the Atlanta Police Department's 2009 raid on the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar on Ponce de Leon Avenue.
The council has been in a closed executive session for about 20 minutes to discuss the proposed settlement, which was reached Friday between city attorneys and attorneys for patrons and employees of the Eagle. The council is expected to vote on the settlement after the executive session ends.
The settlement resolution being considered by the council includes a $1.025 million to go into an escrow account with Lambda Legal, one of two nonprofit legal groups that joined attorney Dan Grossman in representing the Eagle plaintiffs. The Southern Center for Human Rights also joined the case.