Riverdale wants threats investigated

By Billy Corriher

After weeks of calls from the public and civil rights groups to further investigate the allegations of threats to city employees, the Riverdale City Council voted on Monday to ask the FBI, the GBI and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to look into the threats.

The Department of Justice recently completed a report on race relations among police officers and city employees, but civil rights groups and some in the community have called for a more thorough investigation from the department's Civil Rights Division. The first report found that there were some perceived problems with race relations, but city employees were generally content with their work environments.

Capt. Phillip Neely and other employees recently came forward with claims that their lives were threatened, and City Council members said they wanted a more thorough investigation.

"We just want all the facts to come out," Councilwoman Michelle Bruce said. "The truth will save everybody."

Councilman Rick Scoggins said some had questioned the earlier inquiries, and the council wanted to ensure a full investigation was conducted.

"We will proceed with whatever suggestions (the investigating bodies) give us, and the guilty party will be dealt with severely," he said. "We felt like this was in a defensive mode to protect our employees."

Scoggins said the investigation would include threats that council members had received.

Gail Davenport, director of the regional chapter of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, was among those requesting further investigation. Davenport said the last report didn't address any threats and she applauded the council's decision.

"Job safety is one of our major concerns," she said.

The council is also asking the investigating bodies to look into "a conspiracy to destabilize the government of the city of Riverdale which potentially jeopardizes the safety and well being of our citizens."

The conspiracy allegations stem from claims that Mayor Phaedra Graham had overstepped her boundaries with regard to her duties and powers.

Upon entering office, Graham asked City Manager Billy Beckett to report to her and to let her view all city correspondence, which council members said goes against the city charter. At the time, Graham said she was not dictating Beckett's duties to him, just looking to learn more about how the city operated.

Because of the disagreement, Beckett announced he would leave the city after his contract expires on May 30. The council is now receiving applications for Beckett's replacement.