Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed responded late Friday with a statement addressing what he said were false accusations by Eagle attorney Dan Grossman in the GA Voice article, "More lawsuits filed against city of Atlanta for raid on gay bar."
Grossman represented the original plaintiffs in a federal civil lawsuit against the city for the botched 2009 raid on the Atlanta Eagle and is now representing other men in a second lawsuit against Reed and 25 officers involved in the raid.
In the news story, Grossman responded to a list of accomplishments Reed said his administration has completed in the aftermath of the Eagle raid, including settling the original lawsuit for more than $1 million and implementing changes in the police force.
Grossman, in the story, said the mayor had no room to to take credit for the accomplishments.
“Every concession to which Mayor Reed agreed, from conducting an independent investigation in the first place, to releasing it to the public, to requiring constitutional law training for Atlanta police officers, was forced upon him by a dedicated team of lawyers who worked for over a year to get justice for the victims of this raid,” Grossman said.
“Mayor Reed should be begging forgiveness from the city and the gay community for ever having defended this case in the first place. And now he is planning to defend their actions again. He truly should be ashamed.”
Reed issued this response, included here in its entirety:
The events that occurred at the Eagle Bar in September 2009 should not have happened. I was not in office at the time, but I have apologized on behalf of the city. In December, the Atlanta City Council joined me in an expression of regret and authorized a $1.025 million payment to settle the Calhoun v. Pennington lawsuit.
However, others have sought to capitalize on the pain that many in the LGBT community suffered because of the events at the Eagle Bar. Instead of working toward reconciliation, attorney Dan Grossman continually stokes fear and resentment in the LGBT community against the city and the police department. Mr. Grossman makes inflammatory statements, claiming that the reforms made by the city since the settlement were “forced” upon it.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
First, I did not have to settle the Calhoun v. Pennington lawsuit. My administration could have continued fighting the case in court for years. Against the advice of the city’s legal team, I decided to bring the lawsuit to a close and apologize on behalf of the city because I believed it was important to begin the healing process between the city and the LGBT community.
Second, the reforms called for under the settlement agreement were the result of extensive negotiations between the parties, not any forced actions. The city agreed to the reforms because they are the right thing to do.
The settlement agreement called for an investigation into the events that occurred at the Eagle Bar. We engaged Greenberg Traurig, recognized as one of the most LGBT-friendly law firms in the nation, and asked former U.S. Attorney Joe Whitley to lead the investigation. The agreement also called for training on police procedures. Again, the city engaged a nationally recognized expert, Ken Wallentine, to conduct department-wide training.
Third, we have made a conscious effort to implement reforms above and beyond the settlement agreement to heal the fractured relationship between the city and LGBT community. The police department, under the leadership of Chief George Turner, disbanded the Red Dog unit. My administration has partnered with the newly created LGBT Advisory Board. I appointed two LGBT police liaisons, an action I undertook before the settlement was reached.
Instead of offering useful or productive insight on how we can work together to make those reforms more effective, Mr. Grossman brandishes the same irresponsible rhetoric he used prior to the settlement. In January 2010, he said, “The city should apologize. If the city had admitted wrongdoing and apologized for it, it would have been the cheapest, easiest and most just thing the city could have done. We were begging for an apology. This lawsuit is of their own making.”
Now that the city has apologized, Mr. Grossman claims that I should be “…begging forgiveness from the city and the gay community” and has filed yet another lawsuit. The city worked very hard to settle this new legal action, as evidenced by the good faith negotiations we had with Mr. Grossman’s new clients. Eight recently agreed to a settlement.
My administration has taken unprecedented steps to build and strengthen relationships with the LGBT community and make the police department more responsive to the needs of citizens. It is wholly disingenuous to argue that we should be “ashamed” when, in fact, we work every day to improve diversity and inclusion in Atlanta.
The city is in no way finished working to ensure an incident such as what occurred at the Eagle Bar never happens again, but I will not, nor do I have the ability to, write a blank check to Mr. Grossman upon his demand. I do not believe that he speaks for the entire LGBT community, and despite his attempts to create discord in the city, I know that most Atlantans want resolution.
I recently met with one such group at City Hall to hear their concerns, and I will attend a Town Hall meeting on November 1 to engage in a dialogue with a broader array of citizens about issues important to the LGBT community. I have been heartened that so many citizens are committed to improving the relationship between the LGBT community and the police department.
Photo: Eagle attorney Dan Grossman (left) and Mayor Kasim Reed. (File photos)