Friday, April 24, 2015

Garner resigns from AFCRA board, Eaves requests investigation into controversial Bottoms' hiring

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 5:30 PM

Fulton County Commissioner Joan Garner
A board member who voted to hire Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms as the next head of an authority that oversees Turner Field, Philips Arena, and other facilities has stepped down from her appointment.

Fulton County Commissioner Joan Garner this week resigned from her Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority board seat. Fulton Chairman John Eaves tells CL that he asked Garner, who most recently served as the board’s vice chairperson, to resign her AFCRA seat because he wanted to see increased representation for North Fulton on the authority's board.

“Going forward, especially as we get into the conversation about Turner Field, I think we need to have a deliberate presence on the board that represents North Fulton,” Eaves said. “These are taxpayer dollars that have come from all [parts of the county]. In the interest of Fulton County, north and south, we need North Fulton representation."

Garner's departure comes on the heels of a controversial special-called AFCRA board meeting on April 14. At the meeting, five AFCRA board members in attendance unanimously voted to hire Bottoms, one of Mayor Kasim Reed's closest allies and a potential candidate for either mayor of Council president in 2017, to run the body that looks over the sports complexes, along with Zoo Atlanta and other facilities. The mayor controls six board appointees, while the Fulton County Commission, which Eaves heads, appoints the remaining three spots.

Eaves said he pushed for the board shakeup despite Garner’s desire to serve out the remainder of her term through the end of the year. But he says Garner’s resignation had nothing to do with Bottoms’ hiring despite the fact the two incidents happened within roughly one week of each other. When asked about the commissioner's resignation, Fulton spokeswoman Jolene Freeman confirmed Garner no longer served on the board but declined to elaborate on why she stepped down.

Now Eaves is continuing to blast AFCRA for the lack of transparency and hiring process with Bottoms. He says he's still waiting for an explanation about why they removed outgoing Executive Director Violet Ricks from her position, whether her job performance justified such a change, and why there were no advertisements for hiring her replacement. He also questions whether Bottoms is qualified for the gig that would pay her a $135,000 annual full-time salary on top of her $60,300 part-time annual Council salary.

“It stinks,” Eaves says of the hiring. “The process stunk. It was not transparent. There was no process. There was no selection. To me, there’s no indication that Keisha Lance Bottoms is the most qualified person for that job. City Hall is fine about saying that she’s served honorably as a councilperson and a lawyer. That is not sufficient.”

In an interview last week, Bottoms told CL her past experience as a lawyer and magistrate judge qualified her for the gig. She disagreed that the hiring was politically motivated or that her double duty would create a conflict of interest. In her Council role, Bottoms pledged to recuse herself of all votes related to AFCRA or its properties. She also received a vote of confidence from Atlanta Ethics Officer Nina Hickson, who found that “no per se conflict of interest” existed, but that a further analysis into potential “appearances of impropriety" might be needed from AFCRA.

Eaves has now asked the county attorney to investigate the potential ethics violations with the hiring process and whether Bottoms can hold both positions without creating a conflict of interest. If the investigation turns up anything, Eaves will “begin to push toward some sort of action” from the county. He would also like to see the hiring process for future AFCRA executive directors reformed.

Newly-elected Fulton Commissioner Bob Ellis, who represents Milton, Alpharetta, and Roswell, will be recommended to be her replacement, Eaves says. Ellis tells CL that he's interested in the AFCRA appointment because of its importance to the entire metro area. Regarding the recent hiring, he says he has never met Bottoms and doesn't know much about her qualifications. But he likely would have voted against her hiring given the questions surrounding the process.

"On the outside looking in, the appearances of [Bottoms] playing a dual role, serving as a councilperson and that [AFCRA] role with fairly substantive pay, probably doesn't look good from an appearances standpoint," Ellis says. "Had I had a vote on it, I probably would've vote no based on her playing dual roles."

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Chris Rock wasn't talking about the Atlanta Braves specifically, but...

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 4:17 PM

FIELD OF DREAMS: Turner Field will soon be a thing of the past as the Atlanta Braves head to greener pasture north of the city. - JOEFF DAVIS/CL FILE
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • FIELD OF DREAMS: Turner Field will soon be a thing of the past as the Atlanta Braves head to greener pasture north of the city.

Comedian Chris Rock gave baseball fans — and the whole nation — some food for thought this week when he suggested on HBO's "Real Sports" that the sport as American as apple pie is too white. It's classic Chris Rock — smart, funny, provocative. And particularly interesting to consider in a local context, where the hometown Atlanta Braves will soon be moving from the city's center to Cobb County to be closer to its fan base (read: whiter northern suburbanites). 

Rock reminisces on an era when his beloved New York Mets won the World Series in 1986 led by star players such as Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, and Mookie Wilson. "Back then almost 26 percent of major league ballplayers were African-American," he says. "And I could actually have conversations with other black people about baseball." 

I'm not much a fan myself. Never have been really. Chalk it up to a bad tee-ball experience when I was 5. I'm still emotionally traumatized. But the last Braves game I attended was in 1992, the second straight year the team won the National League penant on the way to a World Series win in ’95. I wasn't necessarily keeping score at the time. But yeah, the team was pretty black that season. All through the ’90s in fact: Dave Justice, Terry Pendleton, Ron Gant, Otis Nixon, Brian Hunter, Fred McGriff, even Neon Deion was on the team for a spell back then.

The team roster hasn't been that diverse since. During the last off-season, the team traded Jason Heyward and Justin Upton. I'm sure it wasn't because they were black. Positive, in fact. But it's hard to ignore the irony. Before anybody has a baby in the comments' section, Chris Rock isn't suggesting affirmative action be taken to diversify baseball. He just thinks African-Americans have abandoned the sport, in part, because it lacks cool points. You be the judge.


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A Cappella to take part in Independent Bookstore Day

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 2:58 PM

JOEFF DAVIS/CLFILE
  • Joeff Davis/CLFile

In the wake of everyone’s Record Store Day finds, A Cappella Books is inviting Atlanta to join them in celebrating a different kind of indie spirit: Independent Bookstore Day. What started as California Bookstore Day only last year has expanded to a nationwide ordeal — and while 93 booksellers from desert to redwood forest is impressive, 400 bookstores from coast to coast is even better. In celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit of local bookshops, all of Sat., May 2, will be dedicated to special programs, author visits, and exclusive items like limited edition releases and A Cappella’s first T-shirt in almost a decade.

The limited edition releases will include a mini-collection of essays on the world of contemporary literature by Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist and founder of Tiny Hardcore Press (copies of her chapbook will also be signed). Fans of Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, and essayist Margaret Atwood will want to snatch one of the “Bad Citizen” stencils. The stencil, which is appropriate for use or as a stand-alone art piece, will feature a quote from “Spelling,” a poem by Atwood: “A word after a word after a word is power.”

Included in the Books About Books Boxed Set are special editions of Shadow of the Wing by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai, and The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett. All packaged up in a specially designed cardboard box, this one sounds like enough to tempt any book-lover.

A Stephen King novel would be enticing for a lot of those rabid readers — but the lucky patrons who grab a Finders Keepers Broadside before they sell out will receive a fair bit more. The colored broadside from King’s upcoming novel will also come with a love letter to readers written in the author’s own hand.

As for that T-shirt, store patrons will be interested to know that its design features an excerpt from an essay by Amanda C. Gable, Atlanta novelist and author of the store’s 25th Anniversary book, A Cozy Infinity. It's all happening 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sat., May 2. Be there or — well, just be there.


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Spiked heroin appearing in more Fulton overdose deaths, medical examiner's office says

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 12:55 PM

Of last years 77 heroin-related deaths, 23 involved fentanyl, ME says
  • Eric Cash
  • Of last year's 77 heroin-related deaths, 23 involved fentanyl, ME says
The search for a more intense high than heroin is starting to make an impact in Atlanta, according to the Fulton County medical examiner.

For the first three months of this year, the Fulton County Medical Examiner's office has counted 22 heroin-related deaths. Of those, 16 also involved a strong opioid called fentanyl. (The number might change because some toxicology reports are still pending.)

“We used to hardly ever see heroin and the fentanyl is a relatively new thing,” Dr. Randy Hanzlick, Fulton County medical examiner, wrote in an e-mail to Creative Loafing.

Fentanyl is the most potent opioid available for use in medical treatment, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. It's supposed to be used as a prescription to treat pain. What comes out of illicit labs is some 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Dealers or users then mix it with heroin.

This year’s fentanyl numbers look on track to beat last year’s. In 2014, there were 77-heroin related deaths in Fulton. Of those, 23 involved fentanyl. In 2011, Hanzlick’s office counted only 18 heroin-related deaths altogether.

Fentanyl is “used to make lower-grade heroin stronger,” said Mona Bennett, executive director of the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition. She said her organization, which operates what is essentially metro Atlanta's only needle-exchange program, has been hearing about fentanyl-cut heroin on Atlanta streets for maybe six to eight months, and as a national phenomenon for more than a year.

Continue reading »

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ATLwood: Warner Bros. TV internship to honor Sarah Jones

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 12:10 PM

COURTESY SLATES FOR SARAH ON FACEBOOK
  • Courtesy Slates for Sarah on Facebook

Warners Bros. Television and the International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600) have partnered for an internship to honor Sarah Jones. Jones was killed by an oncoming train during filming for the Georgia-shot Midnight Rider. The Sarah Jones Opportunity, a memorial internship and training program, will link Georgia-based filmmakers with a paid internship and camera training at Sim Digital in Atlanta. From there, participants  will work for a month-long gig in the camera department of an Atlanta-based Warner Bros. show. Check out, the full story.

Filming Updates
>>
Want to own a piece of property that was used in "The Walking Dead"? That's on on eBay! Like, all nine of them

>> Ang Lee
's Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk was at the center of a controversy when the crew set up shop in the Georgia National Cemetery for some filming. 

Sightings
>>
 Want more of Jon Hamm and Zach Galifianakis on the set of Keeping Up with the Joneses? Yes, ladies, that's Mr. Hamm' bulge.

>> Speaking of the cast and crew of Keeping up with the Joneses, a spy hipped us to the fact that Hamm and Galifianakis love them some Bone Lick BBQ. Details below:
The two were spotted dining on fried pickles, a pulled pork, Texas-style sliced brisket, tater tots, and jalapeño mac n’ cheese. The duo, who were both looking quite svelte, also split Bone Lick’s Jammin’ Nanner Puddin’ - caramelized banana pudding with Nutella whipped cream. Zach was overheard asking owner and pitmaster Mike LaSage what his policy was on dine-and-dash.

Although open for just three years, the popular haunt has become a celebrity favorite attracting the likes of Jack Black, Ashton Kutcher & Mila Kunis, Quest Love, Wyatt Cenac, Colin Mochrie, and, of course, Bone Lick BBQ investor David Cross and his wife Amber Tamblyn. 
According to said spy, both Hamm and Galfianakis returned to Bone Lick this week.

Castings
>>
The good folks over at Project Casting have a few gigs y'all might be interested in:
- Captain America: Civil War
- "Rectify"
- Barbershop 3 
- "Satisfaction"
Miscellany
>> Out on Film
, one of the oldest LGBT film festivals in the country, announced the dates for its 28th season. The eight-day festival will place Oct. 1-8, and includes both audience and jury award categories. Out on Film is currently accepting submissions. The submission deadline is July 17. Entries must be postmarked by that date, and include a $30 fee. For more details, click here

>>
Earlier this week, the Atlanta Film Festival announced the dates for 2016's event

>> ATL-shot Furious 7 is the fastest film to reach $1 billion at the box office

Have any tips? Sightings? Encounters? Pictures? Filming news? We need 'em! Drop me a line: gavin.godfrey@creativeloafing.com; or send me a tweet at @WriteGavinWrite. Don't forget to use the hashtag #ATLwood.

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Feds looking into DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 10:23 AM

DeKalb County hasn't exactly embodied the definition of good government in, well, a very long time. Now the top official who recently called for a county-wide independent investigation has come under fire for allegedly bypassing the government's red tape.

Reports say Lee May, who's both DeKalb's interim CEO and District 5 Commissioner, is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation over questions about whether he received preferential treatment during a series of home repairs five years ago. The FBI has declined comment due to the pending investigation.

The reports come one month after he asked former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers to launch an independent probe into the county's corruption on the heels of the suspended CEO's legal battle over corruption charges, one county commissioner's conviction for , and indictments of numerous other officials.

According to WSB-TV, raw sewage rose from a toilet in May's house and damaged parts of his home including the drywall, floors, and several rooms. So May called a man Doug Cotter, who worked for Water Removal Services, to help make repairs. Former WRS owner John Meyer, who told the station that May didn't pay for six months, later sent an invoice to former DeKalb County Purchasing Director Kelvin Walton.

“I didn’t ask for any special treatment, nor was I aware that I received any special treatment,” May told the AJC. “If I did, that’s not something that’s acceptable to me.”

A nearly $6,500 check was cut to WRS the following day despite the fact that the county typically requires property owners to pay for repairs before being reimbursed. In most cases, DeKalb requires a minimum of two estimates for repair work stemming from the county's mistakes. And the settlement process doesn't always pay out the full amount of the repairs. But WSB-TV found no such estimates from May.

"There were things done in the past that was loosey-goosey at best. Looking back now, I do understand that it was a different treatment than others had been given," May told the station.

According to the AJC, WRS later won a DeKalb contract. One WRS owner eventually wrote May a $4,000 check, something May says he never received.

May has also caught flak in recent months for holding both his positions as interim CEO and county commissioner. According to his critics, May's refusal to resign from his District 5 post has left residents in the district without full representation.

Update, 6:00 p.m.: May has issued a lengthy statement calling for an investigation into the $4,000 check. WSB-TV has published another story that might have some answers as well. He explains what happened:

This information was news to me. I neither had any knowledge, directly or indirectly, of special treatment, nor did I request any.

The county did issue a check of $6,400 directly to the vendor in June 2011. During that same month, the reporters revealed that the a check of $4,000 was written by the contractor to my name and cashed into a bank in North Georgia. Let me be very clear: I did not receive this check. I did not cash this check. I did not receive any funds from this check. The endorsement signature on the back of this check is not mine.

Thus, it appears that a fraud has been committed using my name and my position.

As I stated earlier, if any wrong-doing is uncovered, it should be revealed immediately. That is why I reported this illegal activity to the proper legal authorities to investigate this matter thoroughly. This includes the FBI, GBI, DA’s office, in addition to Mr. Bowers and Mr. Hyde.

Also, the contractor subsequently won a contract with DeKalb County in the amount of $300,000 in 2011. I supported the staff’s recommendation to approve the contract due to the fact that it was the lowest bid though a competitive process. Nevertheless, in light of all the other circumstances, this is disturbing and I have asked the county's Purchasing Director to review this matter and determine if any laws or rules were violated.

I have no tolerance for any illegal or unethical conduct in my Administration. I am determined to do everything in my power to reform DeKalb County, root out corruption and malfeasance, and restore the public's trust.

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First Slice 4/24/15: Former lottery finance official files whistleblower lawsuit

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 9:39 AM

A new park is one of many projects taking place near Proctor Creek. - ERIC CASH/CL FILE
  • Eric Cash/CL file
  • A new park is one of many projects taking place near Proctor Creek.
If you've always said the lottery is rigged, you might be right! Sort of. A former top finance official from the Georgia Lottery has filed a whisteblower lawsuit against the organization and its president, Debbie Alford. He claims that he was terminated after he refused to present inflated sales projections to the lottery board. Representatives of the lottery say that the "lawsuit is baseless."

Emory University is investigating members of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity who were accused of mistreating a group of disabled military veterans in Panama City Beach. The students were in Florida for their spring formal; the vets were on a Warrior Beach Retreat. Reports say the fraternity members spit on the vets and stole their flags. Not cool, bro.

In Beltline news, the city received a $280,000 federal grant to build another park adjacent to Proctor Creek, near Bellwood Quarry. Plans for the 9.2-acre park include walking and bike trails, fitness stations for grown-ups and play stations for kids, benches, and open recreational spaces.

"We received the call that no ice cream maker, chef, or entrepreneur wants. A randomly selected pint of ours tested positive for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes." Jeni's is closed until further notice.

After a lengthy delay, the U.S. Senate yesterday approved Loretta E. Lynch to be attorney general, making her the first African-American woman in the position.

Happy 25th birthday, Hubble Space Telescope.

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Reed: Sentencing ex-APS educators to prison time 'was appropriate because children were involved'

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 9:31 AM

"I thought the sentencing was appropriate because children were involved."

Mayor Kasim Reed expresses his support for the stiff sentencing of the former Atlanta Public Schools educators who were convicted of racketeering and other charges in the cheating trial. Several ex-APS administrators receiving the highest amounts of prison time will be re-sentenced next week. (via 11 Alive)

To save CL time from painstakingly documenting every comment people say, we've created 'Soundbites' to call attention to their remarks.

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5 Things to Do: Up Right Atlanta

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 7:30 AM

5 things to do in Atlanta today

1. Up Right: Atlanta at Ponce City Market

2. Han Vance, Tom Cheshire at A Cappella Books

3. Bob Dylan at Fox Theatre

4. Inman Park Festival and Tour of Homes at Inman Park

5. "Los Trompos" at High Museum of Art

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Deal: Georgia will 'respect' potential U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage bans

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 3:28 PM

For more than a decade, Georgia officials have stood behind behind the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. But with the U.S. Supreme Court hearing a challenge to those bans, potentially overturning Georgia's law in the coming months, two of the state's top elected leaders have signaled that they'll adhere to the landmark decision, regardless of the outcome.

In a surprising decision, Gov. Nathan Deal has announced that he won't stand in the way of a potential Supreme Court ruling that would overturn Georgia's gay marriage ban. Deal, who has personally opposed gay marriage, told WABE that Georgia "will support and uphold the constitution of the United States" if the nation's highest court orders the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"If we respect our form of government, then we have to respect it even if that form of government renders an opinion contrary to our own personal beliefs.” he said.

Deal's remarks signal a desire to avoid the negative attention that Alabama received earlier this year for blocking same-sex couples from receiving marriage licenses. His comments come one day after Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens told Atlanta Press Club members that he also would follow the Supreme Court decision, whatever it might be. Less than a year ago, Olens said the state would continue to enforce the ban as it went through the legal process.

“We’re going to encourage all those agencies that have a policy role that they immediately follow the law. I cringe just as much when an attorney general seeks to defy the law as anyone else,” Olens told the APC. “When the U.S. Supreme Court rules, it’s not time for criticism. It’s not time for banter. It’s time for the lawyer to play lawyer and to ensure that everyone follows that law.”

The Supreme Court will hear arguments next week and is expected to make a decision later this summer. Georgia is one of thirteen states that currently have laws prohibiting same-sex couples from getting hitched.

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