Avondale Estates mayor claims “cyber bullying”

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt May 16, 2014 26 Comments
Mayor Ed Rieker

Mayor Ed Rieker

Avondale Estates Mayor Ed Rieker sent out a letter to residents today accusing Decaturish.com of “cyber bullying” the city’s elected officials, employees and residents.

The letter contains many allegations regarding coverage of city government and a fire that occurred on April 12.

“Unfortunately he has recently been engaged in tactics that may be, or border on, cyber bullying in an attempt to extract information from residents, elected officials and city staff in order to produce content for his website,” Rieker wrote.

In his letter, Rieker writes, “Several weeks ago, after a tragic incident occurred in the City, this blogger repeatedly contacted certain residents to persistently push them to give him personal details regarding the event and the aftermath. It was disappointing behavior to say the least and outside the norms for our community.”

Rieker’s statement follows a letter sent by Avondale Estates attorneys on May 16 in response to open records requests.

The statement from Attorney Robert Wilson reads in part:

“Please be advised that the City of Avondale Estates is committed to open government and faithfully complies with the letter and the spirit of Georgia’s Open Records Act in all respects. The City takes exception to your implication that the City withheld some public document from you. Please know that your participation in a local news blog does not afford you any special rights or privileges beyond those enjoyed by all citizens of Avondale Estates and the State of Georgia. The Mayor and City Manager are under no obligation to have conversations with you and/or answer your questions. However, they have attempted to address your questions and will continue to do so if approached in a respectful manner and at an appropriate time.”

As editor of Decaturish, I would like to briefly respond to claims in both letters.

Rieker’s claims about contacting certain residents to “push” them to give “personal details” about the April 12 are simply incorrect. Most of the information contained in Decaturish.com’s coverage comes via public records, including official reports obtained from DeKalb Fire and Rescue and the Avondale Estates Police Department. There were two conversations with people who set up a “Go Fund Me” account on behalf of the family, but those individuals declined to comment. Additionally, a representative from the family also declined to comment. That was the extent of the inquiry.

The letter from Wilson suggests that Rieker and Brown have attempted to respond to questions. Rieker has not responded to our questions since April 15. Since that time, he has not returned messages or phone calls about numerous stories involving routine issues like the city’s plans for annexation. City Communications Manager Kelly Brooks has said she is not allowed to talk to the media, and has said all responses must come from Rieker.

Records requests are the only means of obtaining information about the city, aside from the email newsletters published by the communications manager.

My goal is, and continues to be, to inform Avondale Estates residents about the functions of its government and hold elected officials accountable for their actions.  I do not intend to stop asking questions or covering the city of Avondale Estates.

Here are the letters from Rieker and the city’s attorney. I will let Decaturish.com’s coverage speak for itself.

Response to Recent Behavior by Blogging Site

Neighbors,

Please find below a copy of a letter from our City Attorney to the owner of a local blogging site in reference to recent behavior by the owner. Unfortunately he has recently been engaged in tactics that may be, or border on, cyber bullying in an attempt to extract information from residents, elected officials and city staff in order to produce content for his website.

Several weeks ago, after a tragic incident occurred in the City, this blogger repeatedly contacted certain residents to persistently push them to give him personal details regarding the event and the aftermath. It was disappointing behavior to say the least and outside the norms for our community.

Due to this blogger’s distasteful conduct we stopped responding to his requests for comments several weeks ago. As a result this blogger has recently initiated several Open Records Requests. Some of them are of a highly personal nature regarding residents and City employees.

I believe that the Open Records laws should not be used in a retaliatory manner. The City has and will continue its tradition of open government, complying with all laws and providing access to public records for inspection. However, as long as this distasteful behavior continues the City will decline to prioritize this blogger, and his requests for personalized content, over all of the other ongoing business of the City.

Due to the public nature of this issue we felt it important to relay this information, along with a copy of the letter from the City Attorney.

Respectfully,
Ed
Ed Rieker
Mayor, City of Avondale Estates

Click here to view a PDF of the
City Attorney’s letter online

May 16, 2014

Re: City of Avondale Estates and the Open Records Act

Dear Mr. Whisenhunt:

This correspondence is in response to your email to the City of Avondale Estates’ City Clerk dated May 12, 2014 and your email to the City’s Communications Manager dated May 13, 2014. In your emails you indicate that you intend to complain to the Attorney General regarding “how the Open Records Act is being used in the City of Avondale Estates.” You also indicate that you would prefer not to go through the formality of an Open Records Request and that you believe City officials should answer your questions at your convenience.

Please be advised that the City of Avondale Estates is committed to open government and faithfully complies with the letter and the spirit of Georgia’s Open Records Act in all respects. The City takes exception to your implication that the City withheld some public document from you.

Please know that your participation in a local news blog does not afford you any special rights or privileges beyond those enjoyed by all citizens of Avondale Estates and the State of Georgia. The Mayor and City Manager are under no obligation to have conversations with you and/or answer your questions. However, they have attempted to address your questions and will continue to do so if approached in a respectful manner and at an appropriate time.

Furthermore, I believe that if you speak with citizens of Avondale Estates you will find both Mayor Rieker and Mr. Brown are known for being incredibly open and candid with the City’s citizens. Perhaps you would find these gentlemen to be more forthcoming with you if you make an effort to treat them with the respect that they deserve rather than taking the unprofessional tone observed in your communications with City officials.

Very truly yours,

WILSON, MORTON & DOWNS, LLC

Robert E. Wilson
City Attorney, City of Avondale Estates

SGQ:rmh

Cc:
Stefan Ritter, Senior Assistant Attorney General
Mayor Ed Rieker
Clai Brown, City Manager
Stephen G. Quinn, Esq.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • TheDude

    Your headline should read:
    “may be, or border on, cyber bullying…”
    instead of the sensational & incorrect:
    “Avondale Estates mayor claims “cyber bullying”

    • http://www.decaturish.com/ Dan Whisenhunt

      Dude, my headline is the least sensational thing about this.

      • TheDude

        That’s THEDude, Dan, & your headline is just plain wrong.

        • http://www.decaturish.com/ Dan Whisenhunt

          The Dude, please give me a headline that will fit in the available character space and I will use it.

          • TheDude

            I already have a job, but sure, I can always use the extra money. My rate is $1000 per headline. ;-)

          • http://www.decaturish.com/ Dan Whisenhunt

            lol. good one. :)

  • Brandon

    Dan, amazing how you can go from being praised at the state of the city address to “cyber bullying” so quick…

    • http://www.decaturish.com/ Dan Whisenhunt

      Ain’t that something?

  • Ronald Stancil

    This is gonna be fun. This is what you get when he’s not running for office. Do you have a lawyer?

  • Catie

    Wow. The way its government treats journalists is raising major red flags for me. Your requests for comments/documents all sound very reasonable and routine, and the government’s response really baffles me. As Avondale becomes more of a destination, it’s only natural that the media spotlight will begin to shine brighter on them than in previous years. Clearly they need to re-evaluate their public relations strategy. Here’s to hoping they realize their error sooner rather than later.

  • Sam

    When Bob says “Please know that your participation in a local news blog does not afford you any special rights or privileges beyond those enjoyed by all
    citizens of Avondale Estates and the State of Georgia”, is he saying if you were a reporter for the AJC or other print media you would have special rights?

  • Westchesterite

    Is this the same Bob Wilson who is or has been legal council for the City Schools of Decatur? He makes me very nervous. He must be respected because he was hired as part of the investigation of Atlanta Public Schools during the cheating scandal but he’s made me real uncomfortable with CSD matters. He has seemed more concerned with showing that CSD actions weren’t illegal rather than finding the best legal course that met the needs of all. I’ll never forget his smirking during meetings about the closing of Westchester. He was clearly serving the school system narrowly not the taxpayers as a whole who ultimately funded his compensation.

    • HotTamaleBaby

      Yes, it is

  • Chris Billingsley

    This is an interesting story. It does not surprise me when local government embraces you when you are a cheerleader for their causes and later rejects you when asked to answer some difficult questions. But I would like to comment about the service of Mr. Bob Wilson. He is, in my opinion, an outstanding citizen of Decatur, a true public servant to DeKalb County and the State of Georgia and one hell of a father.

  • Gypsy

    Well said David. These people do not want anyone rocks their boat.

    • WestPonceDecatur

      The Avondale mayor looks childish and petulant here. He’s probably never been held to account before in his life — it’s clear he doesn’t enjoy it.

      Keep up the good work, Dan!

  • MT

    When the AJC asks for comment on a story is that newsprint bullying?

Social Followers

Receive the Daily Email DIgest

Abba2
AtlantaBenv3
Decatur-decaturish-oct-2014 (2)
GooseBumps_300x250_NOW_ON_VIEW
235_ATL_PHA_Flash300x250
BitterRooots
Greg Williams
HandyPro
decaturish ad - riley shirt aug2014
Pullman_Ad1
Web_ad