By Kathy Jefcoats
FOREST PARK — A Forest Park City Council member voted off the board last year has filed a federal complaint against city leaders, alleging discrimination based on her physical disabilities.
Karen-Brandee Williams was ousted from her District 2 seat in July 2011 after an ethics investigation found she violated city ordinances. She was also arrested on a criminal charge related to the violation. That case was dismissed Nov. 2 after she completed a pre-trial diversion and intervention program.
Williams claims the city violated her civil rights by failing to provide her with "reasonable accommodations." Williams suffers from fibromyalgia and asked city officials to buy an ergonomic chair to use during council meetings.
The city built a ramp to the dais so Williams could ride a motorized scooter to her place at council but balked at buying an expensive chair.
While Williams battled with the city over the chair, several residents filed ethics complaints against her. The complaints were unrelated to the chair issue.
One of the violations alleged Williams spent tax dollars on items from which she personally benefited. She has maintained that she did not have the authority to spend city money without, at least, one other official signing off on the request.
Williams denies any wrongdoing and appealed her removal.
Witnesses who testified during the ethics hearing said Williams often directed department heads to perform tasks without going through the proper channels. Williams was seen as telling employees what to do, according to the complaint. But her appeal challenges that assertion.
"A council member doesn't lose rights and privileges of an ordinary citizen when they join the council," said Williams in her appeal. "The council member has the right to make a request of a city department, and be told, yes or no."
Other challenges to the ouster include the allegation that the 4-0 vote to remove her violates the city charter, because five votes were not cast; that Williams cannot commit ethical violations when she is acting legally and in her official capacity to assist citizens; and that the three residents were allowed to collaborate on one ethics complaint that includes 25 counts.
Williams is awaiting a ruling on her appeal to Clayton County Superior Court.