Citizen activist’s pay raise fight heard by Georgia Supreme Court
Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher learned a non-lawyer citizen activist did more than complain; he sued the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.
By: Richard Belcher and Terah Boyd
ATLANTA — Georgia’s Supreme Court will soon decide whether some local elected officials illegally voted themselves a big pay raise. Politicians criticized for raising their pay isn’t unusual, but how the state’s highest court got the case is.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcherlearned a non-lawyer citizen activist did more than complain; he sued the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.
“To be a citizen means that the government works for the people, not the other way around,” Dr. Ed Williams said during public comment at a DeKalb Commission meeting last month.
In fact, Williams is a nuisance to public agencies all over town.
He accused the Atlanta School Board of violating Georgia’s Open Meetings Act when it fired Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. He demanded the City of Stonecrest release employee salaries. Williams also filed suit contending MARTA needed voter approval to extend its nearly 50-year-old sales tax.
On the DeKalb pay raise, he first complained to State Attorney General Chris Carr who sided with Williams, writing, “The actions of the Board of Commissioners in this instance fell short…the citizens of DeKalb County deserve better.”
Williams said the pay raise survived because of a technicality. “[Carr] did not do anything about the action because he said it was past the 90-day time,” he said.
So, Williams spent months preparing to take the DeKalb County Commissioners to court. He said he had never filed his own civil suit.
“It was a daunting task and it took me all of the summer into fall to actually write the document,” Williams said.
The DeKalb County judge who initially heard Williams’ complaint was unimpressed and dismissed it, but the state Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal.
“Well, I was not surprised,” Williams said. “The county was probably most likely surprised.”
By the time the Supreme Court heard the case in October, Williams picked up the assistance of the Appellate Litigation Clinic at the University of Georgia’s law school. Student volunteers handled the oral arguments.
It may be months before the court publishes their opinion on the case. No surprise that Williams said he expects the Supreme Court to side with him. Meanwhile, Williams is preparing for a second fight to be heard by Georgia’s Supreme Court on that MARTA sales tax. He vows to keep lecturing county commissions, city councils and anyone else who opens a microphone about the way things ought to be.
“We cannot maintain a free, democratic government if our citizens do not participate,” Williams said. “The foundation and existence of our country demands that.”
I am proud to serve over 350,000 constituents from Doraville to Tucker, Decatur (Unincorporated DeKalb), Lithonia, and Stonecrest. District 7 is one of the largest districts in the State of Georgia. With diversity, unique communities, and a wide variety of economic resources, I embrace the opportunity to leverage our resources to make DeKalb great!