City of Atlanta has spent $1.3M on training center litigation, petition process

Invoices going back months show hundreds of thousands paid to lawyers and consultants
Mayor Andre Dickens speaks at a press conference in Atlanta about the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. (Arvin Temkar /



Mayor Andre Dickens speaks at a press conference in Atlanta about the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. (Arvin Temkar /

The city of Atlanta has spent more than $1.3 million on legal representation in court cases involving the controversial public safety training center, and for consulting on the pending petition verification process.

Records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show a rising price tag in the two court cases involving the facility, including the lawsuit against the eligibility requirements of the ballot referendum process.

A group of DeKalb residents filed a federal lawsuit in early July to allow non-Atlanta residents to collect signatures for the ballot referendum effort and restart the collection timeline that was originally slated under law to last only 60 days.

The city hired Robert Ashe, a well-known lawyer with Bondurant Mixson & Elmore, and former chairman of the MARTA board.

According to documents obtained by the AJC, the city entered into a contract with the law firm on July 7 — the date the referendum lawsuit was filed. Ashe’s services cost $610 per hour and the firm has billed nearly $489,000 so far.

The city is also currently involved in another environmental case against the project. The law firm Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders is handling that matter, and has so far sent just over $712,000 in invoices to the city.

A worker of the Atlanta City Hall Clerk’s office sealed one of the boxes containing over 100,000 signatures with the petition from the forest defenders; their goal is to have the matter of the training center included on the ballot for public consideration.
Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

Litigation isn’t the only area where the city is utilizing public funds in the battle over the facility’s fate.

Opponents of the center — that will train both police and firefighters — have already submitted what they say is 116,000 signatures as part of an effort to force a referendum on the facility. Although the Municipal Clerk’s office has refused to begin the process of counting eligible signatures, the city has spent more than $116,000 on consultants to manage the process, according to documents obtained by the AJC.

A bulk of that payment is made up of three, $35,000 installments paid to former Atlanta municipal clerk Foris Webb III who, after recently retiring, has been brought back to city hall to serve as an advisory consultant and oversee signature validation.

“Specifically, Mr. Webb will shepherd the Referendum process on behalf of the City, respond to media inquiries regarding the Referendum on behalf of the City and provide advice to the City in connection to the Referendum,” invoices say.

Documents also show more than $11,000 in payments to election attorney and media consultant Chris Sautter for consulting and travel expenses.

Documents do not show any invoices paid yet to Richard Bartolomei or Matthew Cain of Great Lakes Process Solutions, Inc — additional consultants hired to aid in hefty verification effort. According to a contract with the firm, consultants are hired at a rate of $250 per hour.

For reviewing the petition itself, the team will be paid $4 per page during initial quality control checks and $1 per signature reviewed during verification. The city also agreed to a $25,000 retainer.

Opponents of the facility consistently argue that funds for the $90-million are better spent on propping up other city services, and worry that the facility will further militarize police and destroy the urban forest in which it is being built. City officials say the center is necessary to provide a world-class training resource for officers and fire fighters.

When Atlanta City Council OK’d the funding mechanisms for the project this year, the price tag saw renewed uproar after it was revealed the cost would be more than double the amount promised to taxpayers.

For years, the funding breakdown presented was made up of a $30 million contribution from the city while the Atlanta Police Foundation and its philanthropic partners would pick up the remaining $60 million. But in June, council passed a proposal that includes an additional leaseback payment from the city to the foundation of $1.2 million in annual payments over the course of 30 years, meaning taxpayers will cover more than $66 million in facility costs.

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