Franklin asks feds to investigate 'bat' comment

Union leader says mayor is playing politics with injured officers

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin's claims of being intimidated by a union leader are just a political ploy to cover up a broken workers' compensation system, a national police union president said Thursday.

On Thursday, International Brotherhood of Police Officers' President David Holway delivered a letter to Franklin, demanding a public hearing for all injured city employees who have filed workers' compensation claims. Several officers, who were severely injured on duty, have complained of not getting proper medical care or payments from the city.

Holway, who represents about 13,000 police officers across the nation, also asked for the city to allow Atlanta union president Sgt. Scott Kreher to return to work. Kreher was suspended last week after he said he wanted to beat Franklin in the head with a baseball bat for her failure to address the workers' compensation issues.

Franklin has filed a written complaint with federal prosecutors based in the city, asking them to investigate Kreher's comments.

"I felt threatened. My family felt threatened and I acted on that," Franklin said Thursday afternoon, explaining why she filed the complaint.

The mayor has also filed a similar complaint with Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard. Franklin included a DVD with video of Kreher's remarks at a May 20 City Council budget hearing.

Patrick Crosby, spokesman for U.S. Attorney David Nahmias, confirmed receiving the mayor's letter and said prosecutors "have made no decision on whether or how to proceed."

Kreher was placed on paid administrative leave last week pending a psychological evaluation. According to Holway, psychologists completed the evaluation on Wednesday and gave Kreher "a clean bill of healthy."

"He has apologized to the mayor," Holway said. "All of us have had 20 seconds in our lives we wish we could grab back. That's one of those for Scott."

Atlanta Police spokesman Officer Otis Redmond said Thursday that Kreher is on administrative leave and declined to comment further.

Franklin dismissed suggestions that she is politicizing the issue.

"I don't know a person who wants anyone to say 'I want to beat you in the head,' " she said. "I don't know anyone who wants to be the object of violence."

Holway acknowledged that Scott's statements were inappropriate, but said the mayor was using it as an excuse to "shift the public spotlight" away from the workers' compensation flaws.

"You don't become the mayor of Atlanta by becoming a shrinking violet. She's very tough," he said. "She has a political problem she hasn't paid attention to."

Retired Officer Ryan Phinney, who was paralyzed from the neck down in a crash in his patrol car, said he spent two years trying to talk to Franklin about his workers' compensation problems. He never got a response, he said.

"The mayor still isn't doing anything," he said. "We were told if we got injured, we would be cared for. Those words have been nothing but empty promises. I just want the city to live up to its obligations."

The mayor said Thursday that attorneys representing the city are working with lawyers who represent the injured officers.

"These are legitimate complaints and we continue to work with the representatives of those officers," she said.

Retired Atlanta narcotics investigator Bob Buffington, who was shot in the back during a drug raid in 1977, said he hasn't seen that help. He's spent 30 years fighting the city for medical assistance, he said.

"Scott was frustrated over all of these things that are blatantly, maliciously not done," said Buffington, who was declared dead at Grady Memorial Hospital before being revived. "He's human. All of us are. If we were super cops, we wouldn't be in these [wheel] chairs."

City Councilman C.T. Martin, the only city official to attend the news conference, apologized to the officers afterwards.

Martin said he was unaware of the workers' compensation problems until recent news coverage and will schedule a public hearing before the council's public safety committee.

Retired Officer Pat Cocciolone has had to see doctors at least twice a week since being shot on duty in 1997. She spends just as much time fighting the city to get those doctors' visits paid for, she said.

"Our doctors say these things are necessary and the city won't pay," said Cocciolone, who was shot six times, including wounds to the head, hip and stomach. "I just want them to do the right thing."