Residents push Atlanta to drop charges in bar raid

Several Atlanta residents urged City Council members Tuesday to convince the city to drop the charges against eight employees of a Midtown bar arrested during a controversial police raid in September.

"They did not deserve the treatment that they got," Robert Kelley, one of the owners of the Atlanta Eagle bar, told the council's public safety committee meeting.

The pleas came in response to legislation by Councilman Michael Julian Bond directing the city to apologize to employees and patrons of the club who say police violated their civil rights during the Sept. 10 raid.

Kelley said Tuesday that patrons were thrown to the ground by police and threatened. Some patrons have filed a lawsuit against the city.

Southwest Atlanta resident James Allen told the committee it would be irresponsible for the city to apologize with an ongoing lawsuit.

"It is saying my police officers are guilty," he said. "We should not handcuff our police officers."

Committee members said they were reluctant to support Bond's legislation, largely because of the ongoing lawsuit. They put his resolution on hold.

As for dropping the charges, attorneys from the city's law department advised against the idea, saying that is a matter for the courts.

The committee also decided Tuesday to delay a recommendation on conducting a forensic audit of the construction of the city's new public safety facilities. The committee voted to hold a future work session for the entire council to discuss the matter.

"The people's trust was violated," said Councilman C.T. Martin, who requested the forensic audit.

An internal audit completed last month found top aides to then-Mayor Shirley Franklin spent nearly $4.7 million on change orders for the three facilities without adequate documentation or required approval. The audit also found city officials processed two bank loans that totaled $24 million without going through the city's standard financial controls.

One of the aides, David Edwards, told auditors in a letter that the change orders were properly managed and did not increase construction costs because the funds were already budgeted. Edwards agreed that the process for managing the loans was flawed.