AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Brookhaven broke the law by scrubbing Lysol details, state AG rules

The new city of Brookhaven, founded on principles of good government and transparency, violated Georgia's sunshine laws when it tried to hide sexual harassment allegations against the former mayor, according to the state Attorney General’s office.

Responding to a complaint by The Brookhaven Post, the AG's office said the city broke the open records law by witholding an email alleging boorish behavior by ex-mayor and state House candidate J. Max Davis.

Point by point, an assistant AG eviscerated ex-City Attorney Tom Kurrie's stated justifications for withholding the document. One was the ongoing investigation excuse.

The city council also violated the open meetings law by holding private meetings to mull whether to release the complete record, the letter said.

The email in question contained City Manager Marie Garrett’s allegation that Davis sprayed Lysol on a female employee's backside, making her “very uncomfortable.” She also said the mayor was gunning for her job because she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Davis put his law office legal assistant on the city payroll.

In May, Kurrie would only give reporters a sliced and diced version of that email, marking out such words as “sexual harassment” and “buttocks” and rearranging paragraphs to make the email look much shorter than it was. He finally released the full version, with fewer redactions, after weeks of protest by the AJC and the Post.

The Post complained to Attorney General Sam Olens’ office, and Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Colangelo sent a letter Brookhaven’s interim city attorney, Christopher Balch.

Colangelo sidestepped concerns about city officials altering a public document, another potential legal violation.

The Post reports that Balch told council members Tuesday that they face no sanctions, presumably because both Davis and Kurrie are no longer with the city.

Davis is in the August 11 runoff for the vacant House District 80 seat, and he denies aiming an aerosol air freshener can at the woman’s backside, calling it "a joke that obviously wasn't received well."

Kurrie resigned last month to avoid being fired. Asked if Davis had any involvement in altering the public record, Kurrie said he couldn’t comment.

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About the Author

Johnny Edwards is a member of the AJC’s investigative team, focusing on the private sector and state and federal regulation. He has worked at the newspaper since 2010.