FOREST PARK — Ousted former Forest Park Councilwoman Karen-Brandee Williams wants to be re-seated in Ward 2 after settling a federal discrimination suit with city leaders for $35,000.
According to the settlement terms, the amount includes Williams’s attorneys fees.
Williams was given an unlimited venue Monday night to speak during the Forest Park City Council work session, which was taped by an Atlanta television station. She then took the podium during the public comments portion of the regular meeting where she was given an additional 100 seconds to speak to council members.
During both soliloquies, her message was the same: she wants her elected seat back.
“I’d ask council to reconsider its position and reinstate me to my seat,” she said. “I’ve received punishment after punishment by the governing body of Forest Park.”
Williams, 46, was elected to Ward 2 in 2009. Within 18 months, she was hit with an ethics complaint involving allegations she ordered city workers to perform duties in her ward and spent taxpayers money on T-shirts that were deemed to be campaign materials.
Williams said the T-shirts were bought to promote a citywide event and their purchase was approved by other city officials.
In July 2011, city council members voted her off the board after the officer presiding over her ethics hearing confirmed 15 of 25 allegations made by Forest Park residents Roy and Diane Lunsford, and Carl Evans. Williams maintained that the complaint was filed because she asked the city to buy her an ergonomic chair to use during council meetings because of her fibromyalgia.
However, the residents insisted their complaint had nothing to do with Williams’s request for the special chair.
In March 2012, she was arrested for theft by deception in connection with the T-shirts purchase, and lying and violation of oath of office. She worked out a deal with the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office and the charge was dropped after Williams successfully completed a pretrial intervention and diversion program.
The deal meant that Williams emerged without a felony record, leaving her eligible to run for elected office — except not in Forest Park for five years, according to the terms of her ousting from office.
With the federal suit settled in her favor, Williams said she is eager to return to office.
“I’m glad to receive some type of judgment,” she said. “I’m not a thief, I never stole anything. I never violated ethics.”
She asked council members to meet with her to discuss a return to the board. No answer was given during the meeting. In fact, no one on the board addressed her except Mayor David Lockhart and that was to caution her against making accusations against specific people, namely former City Manager John Parker and former Ward 1 Councilwoman Sparkle Adams, both of whom were at the meeting but did not respond to her allegations.
However, Adams later defended herself, saying “the facts need to be told.”
“I was not the one who filed the ethics complaint,” said Adams. “I was not on the ethics board, I was not the hearing officer who found her guilty. I didn’t testify, I was not on the grand jury that indicted her of theft by deception. I was not her supervisor nor did I file any complaints against her.”
Adams said the action taken against Williams was a group effort, not the work of a single council member.
“The council voted unanimously to remove her due to the charges,” she said. “I am only one vote. councilwomen Maudie McCord and Linda Lord, the late Councilman Don Judson, former Mayor Corine Deyton and I voted unanimously to remove her from office because of the charges.”
The Ward 2 seat, which was never filled because Williams kept the issue tied up first in Superior Court then in U.S. District Court, is up for election this year. Qualifying for the seat and the seats for mayor and Ward 1, starts Aug. 26.