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Steinberg sues mayor,
council members

 

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent
 

  Stockbridge City Councilman Richard Steinberg filed a federal lawsuit Friday over what he says is illegal treatment at the hands of some fellow council members and Mayor Tim Thompson.

The Times received a press release Monday from Chris Balch, Steinberg’s attorney, stating that his client seeks “the Court’s assistance to prevent the Mayor and the majority of the City Council from interfering with his duties and obligations as an elected official.”

  Steinberg has been prevented from participating in certain executive sessions during recent council meetings because of his alleged allegiances regarding the city’s ongoing legal action against the Downtown Development Authority. Steinberg maintains that he has no agenda that would require such action, and he only gave an affidavit in the DDA matter but has no more responsibilities regarding the DDA than any other council member.

  “Steinberg had provided a truthful and accurate affidavit to counsel for the DDA detailing the actions of the previous council in creating the DDA,” according to Balch’s statement.

  “After that affidavit was filed in Henry Superior Court, Mayor Tim Thompson, aided and abetted by Mayor Pro Tem Alfonso Thomas and Councilmembers LaKeisha Gantt and Anthony Ford twice voted to exclude Steinberg from Executive Session without legal authority to do so. When the City Attorney Mike Williams was pressed to provide any authority, all he could do was cite to sections of the Georgia Open Meetings Act which permit closed Executive Sessions to discuss pending or threatened litigation. Nothing in the Georgia Code sections cited by the City Attorney authorize the exclusion of an elected official from those discussions,” Balch stated.

  Council member Robin Buschman, who is on the DDA board, is the only member of the council not cited in Balch’s statement or Steinberg’s suit.

  The action was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Steinberg said Monday that he has sued the city as well as Thompson, Thomas, Ford and Gantt personally.

Steinberg said he has taken this action as a last resort.

  “The City of Stockbridge, and the persons of Mr. Thompson, Mr. Thomas, Mr. Ford and Ms. Gantt, have conspired to and have willfully violated my First Amendment Rights as an elected official. I regret to be forced into this matter; however, it appears that they have forgotten about the U. S. Constitution and what it guarantees under the First Amendment,” said Steinberg.

  “I was elected to represent all of the people in the City of Stockbridge. When my colleagues exclude me from discussions, I cannot do the job I was elected to perform.”

  Balch, who called the council action an attempt to intimidate Steinberg for “providing truthful testimony in Henry   Superior Court,” reinforced his client’s position.

  “Mr. Steinberg is not seeking damages, although we believe he is entitled to damages, for the Mayor’s and City Council’s actions,” said Balch. “This suit is brought to enforce the rule of law, and not the rule of the mob, which seems to be the order of the day in Stockbridge.”

  Balch was previously employed by the city to lead the investigation of former mayor Lee Stuart, who eventually left office after pleading no contest in Fulton Superior Court to charges that he violated his oath of office.

 

 

©Henry County Times, Inc.