Willis unfit for office, say Franklin, Woolard; Attack ads possible against Franklin for role in council campaign

By David Pendered

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard said Tuesday that Councilmember H. Lamar Willis is unfit for public office because of his ethical misconduct and should be replaced by challenger Andre Dickens.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Frankln (center) and former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard say incumbent Councilmember H. Lamar Willis is unfit for public office and should be replaced by candidate Andre Dickens. Credit: David Pendered

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Frankln (center) and former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard say incumbent Councilmember H. Lamar Willis is unfit for public office and should be replaced by candidate Andre Dickens. Credit: David Pendered

Franklin and Woolard, who passed strict ethics legislation in 2002, made their comments at an endorsement event for Dickens, a first-time candidate who seeks to unseat Willis from a citywide post in the Nov. 5 election.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed remains a major backer of Willis, who on Oct. 7 was disbarred from the practice of law by the Georgia Supreme Court for ethical breaches. Recent telephone polls reportedly have tested Franklin’s popularity, an indication that the sitting mayor who backed candidate Reed in the heated three-way 2009 mayoral campaign may come under attack for her involvement in this 2013 citywide council race.

Willis maintains that he has apologized and paid the price for transgressions in his law practice and that they did not spill over into his work in elected office. Reed has supported Willis’ position. Willis did not appear to have any campaign representatives to monitor Dickens’ event, which has become a common campaign tactic in recent years.

Dickens took the podium to continue his campaign on a platform of ethics and jobs.

Reporters gathered an event next to the Atlanta BeltLine to hear what former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and former city coucil president Cathy Woolard had to say on behalf of political newcomer Andre Dickens. Credit: David Pendered

Reporters gathered an event next to the Atlanta BeltLine to hear what former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and former city coucil president Cathy Woolard had to say on behalf of political newcomer Andre Dickens. Credit: David Pendered

“We need an ethical government and good paying jobs,” said Dickens, an Atlanta native who ran a furniture store until he filed for bankruptcy protection following the recession. “People want Atlanta to be a better city.”

Franklin and Woolard also took on the city’s business and civic elite, who have endorsed Willis.

Franklin and Woolard criticized the rating of “excellent” awarded to Willis by the Committee for a Better Atlanta. The organization is comprised of more than 20 of Atlanta’s leading business and civic interests, and the review process was coordinated by a consultant for the Metro Atlanta Chamber who headed the 2012 transportation sales tax campaign.

“I was really troubled by that process,” Franklin said. “It seemed so far off base, so wrong, so out of character with Atlanta.”

Franklin now serves as this Barbara Jordan Visiting Professor in Ethics and Political Values at the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. The ethics legislation she put forward was the strictest in Georgia at that time, according to Governing magazine.

Woolard said ethics are the bottom line of public service.

Woolard added that the absence of ethics results in public officials such as Anthony Weiner staying in the public arena long after he should have withdrawn. Weiner is the former New York congressman whose sexting scandals prompted his resignation from the U.S. House and fueled controversy in his failed bid for New York mayor this autumn.

Woolard cited a number of Willis’ ethics transgressions and concluded: “Why would he even want to return to office?”

Both Willis and Dickens have cash on hand to continue their campaigns. Willis reported $45,089 and Dickens reported $61,592 in their most recent campaign disclosures, which were due Sept. 30 and filed by each campaign last week.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

3 replies
  1. urban gardener says:

    But it’s ok for a politician to meddle in the School Board -???
    What is Kasim Reed’s professional resume in education -? Nothing.
    Oh it’s horrors when Shirley Franklin, a politician, backs another politician against Reed’s chosen (and Willis was supposed to be tapped for our next mayor, so i remember hearing some years back), but it’s ok for Reed to actively meddle in the ABOE and back Bev.Hall until the absolute last bitter dreg – after all the other corporate business elite had realized the gig was up and it was time to cut their losses.
    And Reed is back to actively backing candidates for ABOE that he thinks he can control. Like it worked out so well last time for APS students, but then Reed doesn’t have children in the system so~Report

    Reply

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