Reed’s Eagle commission comes under more fire

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imageThe honeymoon period for Mayor Kasim Reed’s blue ribbon Eagle lawsuit commission seems to have lasted, oh, about a few days.

His picks for the panel, the lack of details surrounding it and its mission are drawing critics, similar to ones that have hounded Reed (bottom photo) for his handling of the aftermath of the raid, which – as the mayor points out each time he speaks about the September 2009 botched police raid – did not happen during his administration.

The latest criticism leveled at the panel comes from longtime Sunday Paper staffer Stephanie Ramage, who frequently reports on the Atlanta Police Department for the weekly. She takes Reed to task for appointing attorney Lawrence Ashe (top photo) to the new panel.

A few months later, the public is angered to discover that the police department has been destroying evidence in a federal lawsuit brought against it over a raid. You, the mayor, respond by appointing a blue-ribbon panel to look into what happened at the raid. Who, among the following, would you name to that panel?

–Experts on the topic of the integrity of evidence and the critical role it plays in obtaining justice

–Criminal justice authorities who know how police departments should conduct themselves

–Your campaign supporters, including an old political buddy who helped you put the police chief in place through the fake search: the same guy who helped get the job for the previous chief—the one who headed the department when the raid transpired

If you picked “c,” you might be Mayor Kasim Reed, or someone who thinks like him.

imageReed’s announcement of the Eagle panel on Oct. 28 was short on details, but he did name four attorneys to serve on it: LGBT attorneys Lawrie Demorest and Jeremy Burnette, along with Burton Tillman and Lee Schrader.

Ramage reports that Ashe is also being appointed to the panel, which apparently will include seven people. Ashe played a significant role in the hiring of former Chief Richard Pennington, who was in charge of the department during the Eagle raid, and Chief George Turner, whom Reed appointed earlier this year.

Reed’s spokesman, Reese McRanie [sic], says that currently attorneys Lee Schreter, who specializes in employment law, Burt Tillman (personal injury), Lawrie Demorest (product liability), Jeremy Burnette (securities fraud), and Lawrence Ashe make up the panel, which will eventually have seven members. Only Ashe specializes in civil rights law, but he is of special interest in this instance for the role he played in putting the past two police chiefs in their jobs. Ashe was co-chair, along with Lisa Borders, of Reed’s transition team, the team that directed the fishy police chief’s search.

Ashe is a veteran civil rights attorney and the husband of staunch LGBT advocate state Rep. Kathy Ashe. He “gets it” when it comes to LGBT issues, but as Ramage argues, will his allegiances to Reed impact his work on the Eagle panel? Ramage also details in her piece the selection process for Turner amidst charges that it was tilted in Turner’s direction throughout the interview process.

The Eagle panel has also come under fire from Dan Grossman, one of the attorneys who is suing the city and its police department over the raid. Last week, he accused the mayor of creating the panel only to mollify gay voters because “gay people in Atlanta don’t like him anymore” instead of addressing allegations of police mistreatment and destruction of evidence in the case.

Ramage mischaracterized the Eagle panel in her story. Reed has charged it with mediating the lawsuit over the raid; Ramage says it’s in place to investigate the overall raid. In fact, the police department launched an internal investigation into the raid shortly after it happened, yet after nearly a year, still hasn’t completed it or made its findings public.

The mayor’s staff will point out that despite Ashe, a Reed supporter, the panel also includes Demorest, who along with other high-octane LGBT activists supported Reed’s opponent, Mary Norwood, in last year’s election. Demorest was one of about 30 prominent LGBT leaders who formed Our Community Concerned About GLBT Families to shame Reed during the campaign for not supporting same-sex marriage.

But Ramage’s questions about the panel remain valid.

Ashe may not be a bad guy, but if you’re a mayor who truly cares about restoring the public’s trust in the police department, would you appoint him to a panel assigned to investigating the missteps of people he helped put in their jobs? You don’t have to be an attorney to see the clear conflict of interest. But Reed is an attorney. So either he’s not a very good one, or he thinks the people of Atlanta are too stupid to notice.

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