Mayor Reed wins one in court in case involving vending at Turner Field

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed got a sliver of good news involving Turner Field Tuesday: He won’t face jail for civil contempt.

The mayor and City Council had reined in the Wild West of vending that had operated in downtown Atlanta and around Turner Field with the passing of a new vending law last week — minutes before a court hearing that sought to hold Reed in civil contempt for ignoring the old one.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn LaGrua ruled Tuesday the passage of that law nullified a motion brought by lawyers for Stanley Hambrick, a vendor, seeking contempt citations against Reed and Police Chief George Turner for failing to follow LaGrua’s October order to issue permits to vendors under the city vending law.

The new law didn’t permit vendors to return to public property outside Turner Field and regulated them elsewhere in the city.

The relief may be short-lived. The vendor’s lawyer Robert Frommer said Tuesday he would request the judge to hold Reed and Turner in criminal contempt. He noted while the civil issue was moot, the judge had left open pursuing criminal charges for the failure to follow the court order.

“We’re pressing forward because regardless of the passing of the new law Mayor Reed acted in a lawless fashion,” said Frommer, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, a Libertarian-leaning law group. “Courts can’t allow elected officials like Mayor Reed to thumb their nose at the court.”

Attempts to get a response from Reed or his office spokesman were unsuccessful. Last week, Senior Assistant City Attorney Amber Robinson argued a 1955 law prohibited holding officials in contempt if they were appealing a court order. Frommer argued that law was invalid on its face because it undid the court’s power of mandamus, which orders a public agency or governmental body to perform an act. LaGrua asked the city lawyers for case law to support their position. None was forthcoming.

Larry Miller, who heads the city vending association, hopes the recently announced loss of the Braves will make the mayor and his allies more amendable to allowing vending to return outside Turner Field for remaining time of the lease

“We’ve already missed a whole year of vending in lost revenue,” he said. “We could never understand why they were pushing so hard to put us out of business. It is all about Turner Field and the mayor had made a promise to Turner Field that he was going to clean the vending out.”

Vendors can still operate on private property near the stadium.