H. Lamar Willis is a three term Atlanta city councilman
ATLANTA-- Mayor Kasim Reed is undoubtedly the most important backer of H. Lamar Willis, the Atlanta city councilman disbarred this week by the Georgia Supreme Court.
The court said Willis pocketed a $30,000 settlement intended for his client. The court said Willis hasn't repaid the money. Willis says he has.
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Monday, Willis said he took responsibility for the issues that led to his disbarment. "While I have made some mistakes, I am proud of my record on council," Willis said, vowing to fight for re-election.
Wednesday, Reed made clear he remains firmly in Willis's camp.
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"He made a critical mistake. And he paid a heavy price. When are you going to start visiting with his competitor who had a $1.1 million bankruptcy and multiple other issues?" Reed asked us when we questioned him about Willis's ethics.
But Reed denied he was suggesting there was anything unethical about bankruptcy, a legal process which has helped millions of Americans fight problems with debt. "No, I'm saying people have to make a decision about who they're voting for," Reed said.
Reed is referring to Andre Dickens, a Georgia Tech employee who says he filed bankruptcy after a business failure.
"Lamar Willis did not choose to face his issues head on like I did," said Dickens, who is running a well-funded campaign opposing Willis. Dickens says says his bankruptcy comes nowhere close to the issue that disbarred Willis.
"Lamar Willis has betrayed the public trust one client at a time, one constituent at a time," Dickens said. "This is also in line with the fake charity that he had, and the other ethics complaints that he's had."
Dickens has the backing of former mayor Shirley Franklin -- a one-time mentor of Kasim Reed. In her blog, Franklin wrote Willis's "habitual ethical offenses never seem to end." Reed declined to comment on Franklin's post, except to say that "none of the issues that have been discussed about council member Willis relate to his service for the city of Atlanta. They occurred in his private life. And he's acknowledged and accepted responsibility for them."
Reed insists voters should judge Willis on his record and not his disbarment -- in what may be the city's most closely-watched election next month.