The honeymoon is apparently over for the nine-member LGBT advisory board for the Atlanta Police Department. Supporters have turned into boisterous cranks, a member is quitting, they are getting sued, and their pick for a town hall over the Eagle raid is ruffling the feathers of some gay Jews.
It was all so much smoother when the panel was revived about a year ago in the wake of the Eagle shitstorm as the police department and a new mayor looked for a way to navigate out of the mess and placate the city’s sizable LGBT population.
So much for those good intentions.
Earlier this month, the advisory board confirmed plans for a third town hall about the Eagle raid after being pushed by attendees at their July meeting to schedule another public gripe session. This one, like the last one, will feature Mayor Kasim Reed and Chief George Turner. The panel, after some back and forth with schedulers and a fall calendar getting busier by the gay day, settled on Sept. 28.
Turns out, that’s the start of Rosh Hashanah. So the gay Jews of Congregation Bet Haverim – having gone down this road once before with the Atlanta Pride Committee – objected in a letter last week.
“While other community events are scheduled during our High Holy Days, we see those as unfortunate decisions. None of them hold the significance of a gathering with two of our city’s leaders addressing us on issues of safety and well-being,” Rabbi Josh Lesser and Jeri Kagel, the congregation’s president, say in the letter.
Now, the advisory board – which includes at least two Jewish members – is scrambling to reschedule. Look for a new date sometime in October, after Pride and, they hope, not on a religious holiday. (UPDATE: The town hall is now set for Nov. 1, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Saint Mark UMC in Midtown.)
The panel made its agenda for the meeting clear in an Aug. 25 letter to Turner and Reed: They want the pair to address why more officers haven’t been fired over the raid and the status of police efforts to implement court-ordered reforms.
In the meantime, the panel will work to fill its first opening since the nine members were selected last year. Molly Simmons (bottom photo), the only former cop on the panel, announced her resignation on Saturday. Her email cited “increased responsibilities and obligations”; it came the same day that Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, announced his departure. Simmons is one of two HRC board members from Atlanta and the search process to replace Solmonese is expected to take months.
For critics of the police advisory board, here’s your chance. Glen Paul Freedman (second photo), the panel’s chair, says anyone interested in the opening should contact him. An application is in the works; the remaining board members will select a replacement in the coming months.
Between combing through applications, the advisory board also has to deal with a pending lawsuit. Their recent closed-door meetings with Reed and Turner to discuss the Eagle raid irked gay journalist Matt Cardinale, who added the panel to his pending lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court. He’s suing the city for its “ongoing pattern and practice of holding closed meetings in violation” of the state’s Open Meetings Act. The city, not surprisingly, says the panel was OK to shut its doors for the meetings.
It’s as if the toxic sludge left in the wake of the Eagle raid keeps sliming anyone near it.