Dear Decaturish – Avondale mayor isn’t a king

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt May 19, 2014
Mayor Ed Rieker

Mayor Ed Rieker accepts letter to the editor submissions. Letters must be signed and should be 300 to 800 words long. To submit a letter to the editor, email This post was updated at 4 pm on May 19 when the author resubmitted a corrected version of his letter. 

Letter to the Editor:

Dear Decaturish and its readers:

I have read the letters from both Mayor Ed Rieker of Avondale Estates and City Attorney Robert Wilson of Wilson, Morton, & Downs with great interest, as I am a huge proponent of open government. Georgia’s “Sunshine Laws” are specifically designed to enable transparency in government so that the citizens are fully informed about their elected officials and their actions.

Frankly, the letters from Mayor Rieker and Mr. Wilson bother me. This letter is by no means a legal opinion. That said, I cannot divorce my experience as an attorney from my personal opinion on this matter.

There are several issues that bother me about the letters from Mayor Rieker and Mr. Wilson. While accusing Mr. Whisenhunt of at least the appearance of cyber bullying (if not outright bullying), they are in effect bullying this local news source.

I will break it down:

If anything, the actions of Mayor Rieker and Mr. Wilson could be construed as bullying. they are in the position of power in this situation, not Mr. Whisenhunt. Mr. Whisenhunt, a local reporter, asks questions of public interest. The Mayor of Avondale Estates gets annoyed with said questions, so they stop responding to cordial requests for any information. That forces Mr. Whisenhunt to use another means of gathering the information, and the tool for that is the Open Records Request. Rather than willingly complying with state law, Mr. Rieker and Mr. Wilson are trying to run off Mr. Whisenhunt with specious allegations. If anything, the actions of Mr. Rieker are the ones that are retaliatory in nature.

Including the Senior Assistant Attorney General on the correspondence is ridiculous, and appears to be an attempt to convince a lay-person who is not a lawyer that he may have done something wrong. In fact, all Mr. Whisenhunt has done is use the statutory tools, provided and protected by the State of Georgia, to gather information of interest to the public. That is the purpose of the Sunshine Laws. Using those tools properly is hardly bullying of any sort.

There is a technical point I would like to make regarding some of the information requested from Avondale Estates. Mr. Wilson repeatedly refers to a “document” that was requested, namely one that includes the salaries of the employees of Avondale Estates. What was requested were the documents containing this information. Rather than providing the information as requested, Mr. Wilson is playing a game of semantics. While it is probably true there is no single “document” that contains the information requested, the City of Avondale Estates must have the information or they could not pay their employees. This appears to be nothing but an attempt to dissuade Mr. Whisenhunt from reporting.

As I am sure Mr. Rieker and Mr. Wilson are acutely aware, Mr. Whisenhunt is not guilty of bullying of any sort. That is why they stop short of actually accusing him. Again, using semantics to try and dissuade Mr. Whisenhunt from continuing his reporting.

Regarding asking the community questions about a story of immense public interest, namely the recent Avondale fire, how else are you supposed to get information? That is a reporter’s job — to gather information and report, even if the matter is deeply sad and uncomfortable.

It is also interesting to note that in his letter, Mr. Wilson claims that Mr. Whisenhunt needs to act in a more respectful and professional manner. I think if anyone has been respectful and professional, it has been Mr. Whisenhunt. A mayor is not a king that gets to demand respect – he is elected by the citizenry for the citizenry. He should be respectful to the people. And it is the people’s right as Americans to question the actions of their elected officials. And as for professionalism, is it really professional to shut out a local reporter who was just recently considered an asset to the community, just because you do not like the questions he’s asking?

– William B. Legare Esq.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Catie


  • TheDude

    “Well, let’s see, we have on the bags, Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third…”

    “…the letters from Mayor Downs…”, “Mr. Rieker and Mr. Downs are trying to run off…”
    “…Mr. Downs repeatedly refers to…”, “…Mr. Rieker and Mr. Downs are acutely aware…”

    • NLW

      I’d love to hear your thoughts on the actual substance of the letter….

      • TheDude

        My thoughts are: I support a free press, open government, & lawyers (or anyone) who can get the facts & names right. I wouldn’t want William B. Legare Esq., representing me in a court of law. What are your thoughts?

        • NLW

          I agree with everything as stated above in Mr. Legare’s letter.

          • TheDude

            Long live Mayor Downs!

  • Jeremy

    This is right on. As an instructor at a state university, I know it is somewhat uncomfortable to have some of your work, decisions, and salary made public (and easily searchable) but transparency with taxpayer money and trust is worth this discomfort. Avondale officials should be glad they have a professional and thorough reporter posting online about them and not college freshman….Thanks to Decaturish for completely changing local news for me!

    • Bill Elek

      What’s your definition of “professional.”

      • Jeremy

        I don’t have my own personal definition but the word does have many uses. I think my use is clear from context, but in case it is not I’ll clarify. I have found Dan’s reporting and responses to be done in a tasteful manner comparable to that of a professional reporter. I don’t claim to know about his credentials or income. This is based only on my experience and is certainly arguable. Regardless of my wording, Dan’s work has improved my daily life…. That is the emphasis of my comment.

        • Point of clarification:

          I have about eight+ years of newspaper experience. I spent five of those years at daily newspapers and the last two as an associate editor in Sandy Springs.

          If you need any additional info on my bonafides, you can check out my Linked In profile:

          • Bill Elek

            My inquiry about the definition of “professional” was directed towards Jeremy’s interpretation of that definition and not about anyone’s CV.

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