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Buckhead City Committee sues Atlanta and mayor for allegedly violating free-speech rights with code citations

The Buckhead City Committee headquarters and its controversial rooftop sign in a photo submitted as part of its federal lawsuit.

By John Ruch

The Buckhead City Committee has sued the City of Atlanta and Mayor Andre Dickens for allegedly trying to suppress cityhood advocates’ free-speech rights by selectively issuing code violations for signs and parking at its headquarters.

“This suit challenges a variety of improper actions taken by the City of Atlanta in an attempt to silence the Buckhead City Committee,” said E. Adam Webb, an attorney for the BCC. “It is no secret that City of Atlanta leaders do not want Buckhead citizens to have a vote on their future. They must not, however, be allowed to use illegal and unconstitutional methods to control the marketplace of ideas.”

Filed Jan. 20 in federal court, the lawsuit seeks court injunctions preventing further City actions as well as “monetary damages.”

The City had no immediate comment, with spokesperson Michael Smith saying the City had not been served with any complaint.

The lawsuit is based on a recent complaint-spurred controversy about the legality of a large sign on the BCC’s headquarters at 3002 Peachtree Road early this month, as well as a Jan. 13 appearance by an inspector who allegedly demanded that the parking lot have clearly marked spaces and area for a van for people with disabilities.

BCC chairman and CEO at the time said the group got properly issued permits for the sign and that the City’s allegations it was suddenly a code violation was “selective and harassing.”

The lawsuit’s complaint says the sign is legal, and that the City both delayed issuing a permit on purpose and also has not enforced the code on similar signs in the area — including Dickens campaign signs on a nearby building. The complaint also alleges that the parking space rules do not apply to its property.

The complaint says the City is trying to “squelch constitutionally-protected freedoms,” particularly by delaying the BCC from displaying its message during the time-sensitive cityhood debate. The issue is currently in the form of legislation before the General Assembly seeking permission to be placed on the November ballot as a referendum. The complaint alleges violations of the U.S. Consitution’s First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and of the Georgia Constitution.

The complaint notes that the citations or threatened citations come with the possibility of fines or jail time, adding to the chilling effect.

“Due to the anger and animosity of the leaders of the City of Atlanta toward the Committee and its purposes, Atlanta officials have taken improper actions in an attempt to harm the Committee and stifle its message and activities,” the complaint says.

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14 Comments

  1. Nicolas Uppal January 21, 2022 3:17 pm

    Easy way to solve this; find various businesses from each zip code, and have them submit the exact same application that BCC submitted and average the response times, if the response times are longer than theirs was then its clear that seeing as they have no case for cityhoocityhood they should pay Atlanta for causing lost productivity to deal with this charade, they need to pay all the bills they racked up for all the Buckhead City t6rash they created, so they sue.Report

    Reply
    1. Nicolas Uppal January 21, 2022 7:16 pm

      Also, How can you prove that “free speech” was violated?
      Who the authorizing body dictating how much is too much free speech?

      I agree the code violations are specious, and having lived on Pharr Ct. for the better part of a decade and being a regular visitor to the auto-modification shop behind the headquarters that the building ion quesion was abandoned not serving a productive purpose.
      But is plotting against the body in which you’re in, productive? At what point are you a virus?Report

      Reply
  2. Janice January 22, 2022 4:13 pm

    As usual City employees are performing pet projects for politicians and nothing is getting done for the rest of us. My garbage and recycling haven’t been picked up properly in months. I see no harm in letting citizens vote on Buckhead City. If the majority think a new city will serve them better so be it.Report

    Reply
    1. Nicolas Uppal January 22, 2022 9:06 pm

      “picked up properly”

      What do you mean?Report

      Reply
    2. Let Us Vote January 23, 2022 2:14 pm

      Isn’t it funny how the Buckhead City headquarters gets slapped with a code violation, but not 3252 Peachtree, the vacant rug store less than a mile up the road that was turned into a homeless camp about six months ago? CoA is staffed by petty, inept friends and family of politicians and functions only to facilitate favors, even scores and extract as much money as possbile out of residents.Report

      Reply
      1. Nicolas Uppal January 25, 2022 11:05 am

        It is strange, however, you should be happy that infrastructure inspections are occurring, while not law-breaking, seeing the homeless are living a life unshackled by the burden of debt.Report

        Reply
      2. Nicolas Uppal January 25, 2022 4:03 pm

        Plus an item is the responsibility of the owner of that property (3252 Peachtree) to clear vagrants. The other item is a very clearly written regulation to ensure conformity to a building code. Funny how literally everyone who wants Aryan area, err, Buckhead City, uses infrastructure as one of their main selling points.

        Do as I say, not as I do. I really hope you people eliminated every non-essential item from your life, looks like youre gonna be in realtor-run authoritarianism where the size of the house you buy from these realtors equals the amount of freedom you have.Report

        Reply
  3. Nicolas Uppal January 22, 2022 9:04 pm

    “It is no secret that City of Atlanta leaders do not want Buckhead citizens to have a vote on their future. They must not, however, be allowed to use illegal and unconstitutional methods to control the marketplace of ideas.”

    This is completely the wrong application, this guy is a dolt. The ‘marketplace of ideas’ is politics, this is political only for Mary Norwood, who is the wizened lynchpin of this cultural hand grenade of a movement.

    How is it illegal to enforce a clearly written, and from the looks of businesses in the surrounding area well adhered to code of building signage? If anything this is a den of realtor theives with vengeful motives on the admonished of society in an effort to “earn” more of a valueless currency and, by the act of ‘earning’ that currency they further devalue the currency by forcing more debt into the financial system.Report

    Reply
  4. Jason January 24, 2022 8:58 am

    the Buckhead City HQ is a HUGE improvement, why is that a bad thing? Atlanta employees should be cleaning up homeless camps not harassing political opponentsReport

    Reply
    1. Kevin T Keefe January 24, 2022 9:03 am

      Why is it bad to require businesses to follow the law regarding handicapped parking spaces?
      Any citizen can file a complaint against any businesses for not following this law and the city simply cites the business for non-compliance. Do you not understand how enforcement works, or do you just not care?Report

      Reply
    2. Nicolas Uppal January 25, 2022 10:55 am

      “Harassing political opponents” who happen to break INFRASTRUCTURE rules, yet they complain that the infrastructure they so brazenly disregard is not good enogh? What a joke, this is so clearly a money grab by the realtors who concocted this idiotic idea.Report

      Reply
  5. L. Sims January 24, 2022 3:21 pm

    using public employees for political retribution = illegal as hell

    why the naivete on this comment board? where are the citations for all the illegal Dickens campaign signs?Report

    Reply
  6. Nicolas Uppal January 25, 2022 3:48 pm
    Reply
  7. friday night funkin January 27, 2022 3:23 am

    This is a very detailed analysis.Report

    Reply

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