Rule of Law & Atlanta: This is Why Process Matters

A few days ago, I wrote a post about an Atlanta city public meeting I watched. In the post that followed, I didn’t want to distract from the naming of the new Atlanta Interim Police Chief that day nor the beginning motion of removing the whistleblower from the committee in the actual meeting. Priorities, y’all. I got the added bonus of a heads up that the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board (APAB) President has requested a meeting with the Inspector General, about me. 

Who saw that coming? Actually, there’s one, two, three emails. LOL. We’ll see how long I get to write about this from the inside, folks- wish me well!

I didn’t talk about the process of BACE meetings across the city, but I think it’s important to do so, particularly, knowing the political nerds/ insiders/ hacks that make up the Peach Pundit readership. 

Political nerds LOVE process rules, amirite?

So in the previous few months I’ve written here and here about the Mayor’s Executive Order that the Dept. of City Planning informs APAB, as a BACE (Board, Authority, Commission, Etc.) that we are required to meet in-person, exclusively, in order to meet the requirements of the Georgia Open Meetings Act. Putting aside GMA’s great work on HB 98, APAB membership has been informed, in writing, by the Dept. of City Planning that we will be held accountable with this EO and can face a misdemeanor and fines, if we do not comply. Meanwhile, our neighbors in Dekalb County are meeting hybridly. And our neighbors in South Fulton are meeting virtually only.

When Mayor Dickens addressed APAB in our May 2022 General Body meeting, he was asked directly if he would consider amending the EO to allow hybrid meetings. I know, as the APAB Correspondence Secretary, I both posed that question, and compiled the others that were sent to the Mayor. Here’s a list of them that were sent in advance. These were not the questions posed to him in the meeting, but you can find those and his responses, in this video

After all this rigamarole, you can imagine my shock when I saw very clearly on City of Atlanta’s website, under Public Meetings, the PDF that includes a Zoom link (please discuss among yourselves how ridiculous THAT is), for the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting for the Public Safety Training Center. 

This committee is a BACE. APAB is a BACE. Why is the EO inconsistently followed across City of Atlanta BACEs?  

While I suspect PP readers gave me a bunch of eye rolls as I wrote these posts, I hope they see now the documentation they are. I hope PP readers evade centering the process discussion around me, and point more to how the City of Atlanta inconsistently applies this Executive Order.

Now don’t get me wrong- I PREFER virtual meetings! They increase participation of the community, allow for more convenience, and reduce time in traffic- winning all around! I mentioned this in my Open Letter to Mayor Dickens

But the reason why the process matters is what happened in that particular meeting. 

A motion was made to begin removal of the whistleblower on the committee. And while the committee members referenced they’d discussed with the “Legal Dept.”, in attendance were Interim Chief Schierbaum and City of Atlanta COO, Lachandra Burks; they remain subject to the same requirements as APAB does, as both are BACEs. 

That’s kind of how the rule of law works.

So clearly, #notanattorney, and can’t offer any legal advice to Ms. Lily Pontiz, but I’d bet there’s a few Superior Court Judges that would LOVE to give the City of Atlanta a refresher course on the rule of law. 

Now, you might wonder- does Mayor Dickens know this, or even care? I’d bet not. 

And that’s why it matters who he trusts in these particular positions and if they equally hold themselves accountable. If not, their inconsistency in process opens the City of Atlanta up to legal exposure that may enable Ms. Pontiz to remain a member of the committee. I could think of worse things, personally.

Also, if you’re wondering if this is a one time thing of the committee, it’s not. Here’s the Saporta report’s coverage of the meeting as well, because local journalism is the best! Thanks to John Ruch for following this issue and others in the city!

The remaining question I’d have, regarding this meeting is: who enforces accountability? Usually that’s the police, right? But the new Interim Police Chief is a member of the Committee. 

You see how this is problematic. 

Oh Atlanta, you’re so messy. This is why we can’t have nice things.

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