Fulton councilwoman accused of Taser threat files slander lawsuit

South Fulton Councilwoman Rosie Jackson (fourth from left) filed suit against Helen Zenobia Willis (second from left) after Willis accused Jackson of threatening her with a Taser. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com AJC FILE PHOTO

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South Fulton Councilwoman Rosie Jackson (fourth from left) filed suit against Helen Zenobia Willis (second from left) after Willis accused Jackson of threatening her with a Taser. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com AJC FILE PHOTO

A South Fulton councilwoman whose elected colleague accused her of threatening her with a Taser has filed a lawsuit against the woman and the city.

Rosie Jackson, who is running for re-election in the city of South Fulton, filed suit this week against the city and fellow Councilwoman Helen Zenobia Willis, accusing them of slandering her in relation to the incident.

Last October, during a council meeting, Jackson and Willis were aggressively pointing at each other as Mayor Bill Edwards pounded his gavel and told them they were out of order.

Willis motioned for a police officer to come to the dais. Police Chief Keith Meadows confirmed that Willis said she had been threatened with a Taser, and that the department was investigating the incident.

In March, Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard said "there was no criminal conduct." Jackson said then that she was relieved to be "fully exonerated" and that she thought her reputation had been "wrongfully tarnished." She said she had carried a Taser in the past, but did not threaten Willis with one.

The suit, filed in Fulton County State Court, says that Willis slandered Jackson when she talked to a local TV news station and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the incident.

Willis’ “defamatory and disparaging statements have caused Plaintiff to suffer monetary damages due to lost business opportunities and reputational harm,” the suit said.

It claims that Willis made the statements with malice, and intended to harm Jackson. The suit also said Jackson asked Willis to retract the statements, but she refused.

“My character has been defamed,” Jackson said. “I just want to set the record straight.”

Willis directed a reporter to her attorney, Antavius Weems. He said he had discouraged Willis from filing her own suit, saying that the elected officials should “operate in a civilized society,” but would now reconsider that advice.

“No good deed goes unpunished,” Weems said. “We’ll definitely file action in addition to the response. This is superfluous, baseless and harassing.”

In addition to the lawsuit, Jackson came under fire this week when during a candidate forum, she passed out a termination letter for a woman who used to be her aide. Someone asked Jackson why she had gone through four aides in the two-and-a-half years she’d been in office. Calling out one aide by name, Jackson said, “She called me senile, so she left for that,” and handed out the woman’s termination letter, which accused her of insubordination and age discrimination.

An open records request showed that two aides resigned — one after just one day — and Jackson terminated two, saying they “failed to meet the standards of performance” required for the job.

“They fired themselves,” Jackson said. “When you told them what is expected of them, this is what you expect.”

Linda Pritchett, the aide whose termination letter Jackson distributed at the forum, did not respond to a phone call seeking comment. But she attended a city council meeting after the letter was distributed, and called the councilwoman’s actions messy, unprofessional and outrageous.

“There is nothing that anyone can say to justify the inappropriateness of her behavior,” Pritchett said. “This is not the type of conduct that we should expect seeing or coming from any elected official.”

She said Jackson did not consider how passing out the letter would affect her future career. Jackson said the letters were public record, and she believed that Pritchett had taken the job with an agenda.

“She started documenting me and complaining about me from Day One,” Jackson said.

Jackson's opponents in the District 5 race are Corey Alan Reeves, Clyde Eugene Sampson II and Duane L. McClain. Willis is also up for reelection, but she is running unopposed for her District 3 seat.

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