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Monday, November 30, 2009

H. Lamar Willis ethics complaint — no, not that one — is dismissed

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Atlanta City Councilman H. Lamar Willis has had a rough couple of months.

In September, the AJC reported that the Post 3 At-Large member and attorney owed more than $40,000 in back taxes. Then he was slapped with a $25,000 court fine for misrepresenting his scholarship foundation as a nonprofit charity. All this and a re-election campaign to run.

On Nov. 19, however, Willis — who on Election Day edged out challenger Shelitha Robertson to win another four-year term at City Hall — finally received some good news.

After months of investigation, the Atlanta Board of Ethics dismissed a complaint filed against Willis that alleged he courted a conflict of interest — and used his council title to his advantage — when he represented an Atlanta police officer on domestic abuse charges in early 2009.

According to the Ethics Board's documents, an Atlanta Police Department officer charged with battery after a physical altercation with his now-estranged wife hired Willis as his defense attorney in January. Willis defended his client in state and superior court.

Documents say the victim, who filed the ethics complaint against Willis and is also an APD officer, alleged that the councilman flirted with a conflict of interest because his client is a city employee and used his title at two court hearings. Another APD officer who said he witnessed the alleged abuse and claimed he was assaulted by Willis' client while defending the victim echoed her claims.

Willis denied using the "hey-I'm-just-a-city-councilman" line. The Ethics Board said a court transcript review backed up h. (A transcript was not made at the initial hearing. The Ethics Board was unable to find a transcript from another hearing.) The witness' attorney said she never heard Willis mention his title during the legal proceedings.

And since Willis represented his client in state and superior court, the Ethics Board said, the councilman didn't have a conflict of interest.

That being that, the Ethics Board determined there was no probable cause to move forward with the complaint. Break out the bubbly.

(Courtesy City of Atlanta)

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