Monday’s surrender of an ousted Forest Park City Councilmember was the result of the joint effort of the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office and the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office.
Clayton County District Attorney Chief Administrator Dennis Baker said care was taken to coordinate the surrender of Karen-Brandee Williams because of her physical condition. Williams, 45, suffers from fibromyalgia, a common syndrome in which a person has long-term, body-wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues.
After Williams was indicted March 21 on a three-count true bill, a bench warrant was issued for her arrest. The charges include theft by deception, false statements and violation of the oath of public office. The charges are related to a 2011 investigation into allegations Williams misappropriated tax dollars while a Ward 2 representative.
“We started working on a plan to turn herself in,” said Baker. “We knew she had physical ailments and we didn’t want her sitting in the jail or even the sheriff’s office longer than necessary.”
Baker said the two offices worked back and forth with the bonding company and Williams’ attorney, Quinton Washington, to make the release process easier, too.
“We worked it all out, let them know she had a $3,000 bond,” he said. “So she could get in and get out. It was a joint effort and the bottom line is, she was able to get in and get out.”
Washington said Williams appreciated the efforts taken in her surrender.
Routine procedure is to issue a bench warrant for a person who has been indicted without first being arrested. The warrant is distributed to the Fugitive Unit, whose sole task it is to round up people wanted on outstanding charges. An arrest is made wherever the fugitive is found. The unit recently picked up a fugitive sitting in traffic in front of the Clayton County Courthouse in Jonesboro.
Williams’ physical condition was the first fracture in her relationship with Forest Park City Council. She took office in January 2010 and asked for a special chair to accommodate her fibromyalgia pain during council meetings.
Williams said she was “pretty uncomfortable” sitting in the available chairs.
The city built a ramp so Williams could be wheeled onto the dais inside council chambers. Discussion began soon after she was sworn in between Williams and the city on what type of chair she needed. By November, Williams said the issue had escalated to the point she felt harassed, retaliated against and slandered.
Then, there was a dispute over whether to choose a $200-$300 chair from an office supply store, or a $1,900 ergonomic chair from a durable medical equipment store.
All that fell by the wayside when several residents brought ethics complaints against Williams. The complaints, none of which concerned the chair or her physical limitations, alleged that Williams used tax dollars to buy T-shirts displaying wording construed as campaign materials.
Williams said the T-shirts were bought to promote a city-wide event and their purchase was approved by other city officials.
An ethics hearing was held in early 2011, resulting in the presiding officer confirming 15 of the 25 allegations. The city council voted July 28 to remove Williams from office. Williams appealed the ousting. The case is pending in Clayton County Superior Court. Washington said he is working on getting the case on a trial calendar.
“I am confident she will get her seat back,” he said.
District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said Forest Park City Attorney Robert Mack brought the ethics complaints to her office for a criminal investigation. The result was the indictment by the grand jury. If convicted of a felony, Williams will be unable to seek or hold elected office.
The Ward 2 position remains vacant.