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