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Tucker Mayor will give away tickets to nondiscrimination ordinance town hall


Tucker Mayor will give away tickets to nondiscrimination ordinance town hall

Mayor Frank Auman makes his remarks regarding the proposed nondiscrimination ordinance during the May 8, 2023 public hearing at Tucker City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Update: The town hall scheduled for Thursday has been rescheduled, although the city has not yet stated when the town hall will take place. 

“Mayor Frank Auman’s town hall scheduled for May 25 at city hall has been cancelled and rescheduled,” a spokesperson for the city said. “The mayor’s wife Gaye has been hospitalized, and he will be by her side for the next several days. On behalf of the Auman family, we are grateful for your prayers.”

Here is our previous story: 

Tucker, GA — Tucker Mayor Frank Auman expects a packed house for his May 25 town hall to discuss Tucker’s proposed nondiscrimination ordinance.

And, as it turns out, the mayor — who has long opposed the ordinance — will be giving away tickets to the event.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. at Tucker City Hall, located at 1975 Lakeside Pkwy, Suite 350. If you want to attend, however, it’s a little complicated.

The ticketing is ostensibly for crowd control. According to the city, capacity at city meetings is limited to 100 people. At a May 8 meeting where a first reading of the ordinance was held, people stood out in the lobby due to seating limitations.

But the mayor has a solution. The city will provide free tickets to the event, and Auman will give them away.

In an email sent to the council, which was provided to Decaturish, Auman announced, “I am distributing tickets for most of those 100 seats … I will leave an envelope for each of you at city hall with eight tickets inside. Each will allow one person admission if they arrive by 6:45 p.m. They can just show the ticket and walk in.”

Tucker Open Door, a local civic group, has been placing pressure on the city to adopt the ordinance, which is similar to ordinances adopted in other cities like Doraville, Decatur, Clarkston, Chamblee, Dunwoody, and Brookhaven.

Auman said he’s giving three tickets to the leadership of Tucker Open Door, which will be a total of 51 tickets. Auman said he will give three each to the local Community Improvement District and the Tucker Business Association, “and I’ll distribute a few myself.”

“At 6:45 p.m., we will begin admitting anyone who has walked up, fill the room to 100, and we’ll have to cut off the rest, including anyone who arrives with a ticket after 6:45 p.m.,” Auman wrote in the email. “So if you know people who are especially eager to attend, please give them a ticket to assure them a seat.”

A spokesperson for the city said the media will be able to attend without a ticket.

And how do you get a ticket? According to a post on Auman’s mayoral Facebook page, if you’re in Tucker you need to contact a member of your city council. Auman’s post doesn’t provide instructions about how to do that, so to find email addresses for city council members, click here.

“All city council members have an allotment of tickets, so if you want to be sure to get a seat, please contact them ASAP,” Auman’s Facebook post says. “There will be room for some walk-ups, but limited in number. Message me for more details.”

Councilmember Anne Lerner announced a nondiscrimination ordinance working group back in April 2022 to craft the new ordinance. That came six months after Mayor Auman and city council members supported a resolution for an “inclusive, fair and welcoming city.” Supporters of the ordinance said that the resolution was not legally enforceable.

The ordinance itself creates legal definitions in the city code for age, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and veteran. It declares that people have a right to be free from discrimination regarding seeking or keeping employment, enjoying public accommodations, obtaining housing, and being free from retaliation for exercising those rights.

The ordinance does carve out 10 exceptions, some of which cover religious organizations. It also provides a process for enforcing the ordinance.

Under the NDO, the city can enforce the ordinance, but it’s a lengthy process.

People who want to file a complaint about ordinance violations can file them with the city clerk using a form provided by the city. Complainants will be required to pay a $50 filing fee. The city clerk would notify the chief judge of the city’s municipal court, who would appoint a hearing officer from a list of hearing officers appointed by the city in the same way that the city appoints members of its boards.

The hearing officer can dismiss a complaint if the complainant has filed a separate complaint with a state or federal agency alleging the same facts. If the complaint makes a claim that violates state or federal law, the hearing officer will refer the complaint to those agencies and dismiss the complaint. The city clerk will have to serve the target of the complaint within seven days of the complaint being filed. The respondent will have 30 days to answer the complaint but will not be obligated to respond. If the complaint is allowed to proceed, the city will also offer up to six hours of free mediation services to resolve a complaint before holding a hearing. If the complaint results in a hearing, and the accused is found to have violated the city’s ordinance, there will be a fine of $500 for the first violation and a fine of up to $1,000 for each subsequent violation.

“No such finding or penalty shall in any way be considered to be a criminal conviction,” the ordinance says.

The hearing officer may also request corrective action in addition to or in lieu of a fine.

Parties found to have violated the ordinance may appeal within 30 days to the Superior Court of DeKalb County.

To read a draft of the ordinance, click here.

There’s been local opposition to the ordinance, most notably from Rehoboth Baptist Church, which has encouraged people to speak out against the ordinance out of concern it would infringe upon religious views.

Auman has his own views on the subject.

“I have serious reservations about trying to use the force of law to bring about the change we’d like to see on this matter,” Auman said back in 2021. “My concerns include the fact that such a law is outside our purview, it creates division instead of unity, and it will lead to all sorts of needless, expensive legal action by and among our citizens.”

At the May 8 meeting, Auman provided an extensive list of objections to the ordinance.

Auman’s objections ranged from practical concerns about how it will affect the 1,200 businesses in Tucker with fewer than 10 employees (which are not affected by existing federal equal opportunity regulations) to highly speculative scenarios involving pedophiles as a potential protected category.

Auman asserted that, in effect, every person and property owner in the city was at risk of being taken to court if they did not agree with the ordinance.

“Diversity of thought and the ability to disagree should not be subject to government punishment,” Auman said.

Auman characterized the ordinance as giving up on the ability of the community to overcome its shortcomings without government interference and urged more time and public discussion before passing it.

Auman said that he has heard people speaking about experiencing discrimination years or decades in the past, but would like to hear about any instances of ongoing discrimination in Tucker.

Auman emphasized that his May 25 town hall would not be a city council meeting, but said he hoped that it would be an opportunity for dialogue before the ordinance is ultimately read a second time and voted on.

“We’ll have a second read. I can’t tell you when it’ll be or what form the meeting will take or what the ordinance will look like by the time we get there, but that’s the process. That’s what we’re doing,” Auman said.

In Tucker, the mayor does not have veto power and is just one of seven votes on the council. If the majority of council approves the NDO, then it will become law int he city of Tucker. Auman does not have veto powers save for when it comes to appointing the Tucker City Manager, according to the city’s charter. The mayor presides over all meetings of the city council, and he does set the agenda, but an item can be added to the agenda via written request from two council members, according to the city charter.

In his email to the council about the town hall, Auman made it clear that he won’t be putting the nondiscrimination ordinance back on the agenda.

He also advised the council members interested in attending not to say anything during the meeting, even though it will technically constitute an open meeting under state law.

“It would be best, and I think very helpful, if you just came and sat on the periphery and listened,” Auman wrote.

Sara Amis and Logan C. Ritchie contributed reporting to this story. 

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