South Fulton city council responds to mayor’s critical allegations
ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - On Tuesday, the South Fulton city council called a special meeting after the city’s mayor made a series of critical comments alleging corruption, bullying, and intimidation by the council.
“I’m blowing the whistle on this because as mayor, the buck stops with me. And the end of this culture of corruption stops with me,” said South Fulton Mayor Khalid Kamau in a press conference on Monday.
During his Monday comments, Mayor Kamau called for the GBI to investigate the city’s handling of an investigation, said he plans to fire the city attorney, and alleged the council bullied and intimidated city employees.
On Tuesday, Councilmember Natasha Williams said the mayor’s characterization of the council was unfair.
“We’re a steady city, the city is in good hands, we’re in good financial shape,” said Williams. “We have good things happening. I think as facts come out and we’re able to share with the public many of the things he mentioned, a different story will emerge.”
A spokesperson for the city said the mayor does not have the authority to fire the city attorney.
According to the city’s charter:
“The mayor shall have the authority to remove the city attorney for good cause; provided, however, that an affirmative vote of five members of the city council may prevent the removal by determining that good cause for removal does not exist. If requested by a majority vote of the city council, the mayor shall provide in writing the reasons for such removal.”
The council could address this option during the executive session called for later this week.
An alert for the meeting, set for Friday at 4 p.m., says the council will address litigation and personnel matters.
A spokesperson for the GBI said they do not have any open investigations into the city of South Fulton.
Kamau said the council’s direction is dividing the community.
“The eagerness of this city council to undermine our people’s agenda now threatens the safety and stability of our entire city,” Kamau said on Monday.
Councilmember Natasha Williams said it’s going to take cooperation from both sides to mend the gap between the council and the mayor.
“I think that is going to take effort on both sides. It’s a bump in the road. It’s no different than any other government anywhere in the country where there are moments of conflict, but we will overcome it,” Williams said in an interview on Tuesday.
FROM A CITY OF SOUTH FULTON SPOKESPERSON AFTER MAYOR KAMAU’S MONDAY COMMENTS:
Appearing as a whistleblower
All assertions made by the mayor as a so-called whistleblower already were under investigation. All findings will be subject to the open records act when those investigations are complete. In addition, city code requires elected officials – when not designated as an official spokesperson but seeking to exercise their First Amendment rights regarding city related policy or position – to ensure the public knows that such assertions are their own opinions and are not official policy. This would apply to any conclusions reached regarding the results or outcome of any investigation.
There is no evidence of any corruption within the police department. As more officers voiced concern about a particular supervisor, the city manager asked the Smyrna Police Department to investigate the claims as an outside, independent entity. The police chief agreed to this process and council members were aware of the investigation, which eventually found evidence of inappropriate behavior that violated department policy. The supervisor in question resigned in lieu of termination and the process of notifying the Peace Officers Standards and Training Council was followed, contrary to the mayor’s allegation that it wasn’t.
A complaint by a city employee at the director’s level that a council member and the police chief tried to intimidate her and influence her actions in the police investigation is itself under investigation. As such, the city cannot comment on this situation beyond saying that it will be looked at thoroughly and any appropriate action, if necessary, will be taken. The mayor’s premature release of documents related to this matter is troublesome and has the potential to taint or adversely affect the independent investigation and its outcome.
City overcharging for public records
State law sets forth a standardized process for requesting and providing public records – including varying time frames – and standards regarding what fees can be charged. Governments can recoup resource costs, including employee time, related to the provision of these records. The size and scope of the requests greatly determine the final cost. Qualified personnel must read through each record and, where appropriate, redact private information that is exempt from disclosure according to state law. For larger requests, this can take a considerable amount of time. Charges must be based on the cost of the lowest-possible employee grade that can complete the task. In one case, a resident filed a complaint with the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, alleging the city was charging too much and taking too long to answer his request. The attorney general sent notice of the complaint, not to assess guilt, but simply to allow the city to answer. The city attorney will meet the deadline for that response.
Mayor firing the city attorney
Although the mayor has alleged that he has good cause to fire the city attorney, the mayor has absolutely no power to fire a city employee under the city charter, including the city attorney. The council – with a supermajority vote – can terminate the employment of the city manager, the city clerk and the city attorney. Only the city manager can terminate or approve the termination of a member of city staff. The city council maintains its support and confidence in the City attorney who remains employed and on the job.
Copyright 2022 WGCL. All rights reserved.