Tempers flare as new city attorney Noblett ripped on open records rebuff

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Anthony Byrd, city council member in a chat after Tuesday’s meeting, says he sides with police in a noxious arrest of a girl dragged from her family’s car by a cop assisting in a repossession action by used car lot M&R Motors. (Photo David Tulis)

Tempers flared at city council after 92.7 FM broadcast journalist Marie Mott accused newly minted city attorney Phil Noblett of lying in comments about whether his office obeyed the law that allows for personal inspection of city employee records.

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

Miss Mott, 30, demanded to know council members’ state of mind regarding cases of police enforcement that are routine — but are being ignored though they are hostile and abusive, she said.

The country “has failed to hear the plight of the Negro and the poor that has worsened over the past 12 to 15 years,” the minister’s daughter said.

“Where are you on these issues?”

“It’s such a disgusting thing to sit in a council room where people get to commend and rub each other’s shoulders and backs and feel comfortable when you got to step over poor people and drive past poor people when you go to your nice neighborhoods, your nice houses, your nice cars.”

Miss Mott cited three fresh cases that demand citizen action:

➤ An on-duty rape involving police officer Desmond Logan, whose deeds are alleged in two Times Free Press reports to have been covered up in department files for three years

➤ The arrest of the Avery Gray daughter, 14, with a city officer under an ethical cloud for having caused a breach of the peace in an auto repossession action. Mrs. Gray says her daughter still is healing from physical injuries the officers wristcuffs caused, and is seeking legal counsel to redress the family’s grievance.

➤ The violent arrest of Diana Watt, who was jerked from her car and thrown to the tarmac under a Title 55 traffic encounter and is being charged with eight criminal counts.

Miss Mott blasted the police department’s long employment of Michael Wenger, a detective with a troubled record who slugged Unjolee Moore while interrogating him, according to testimony in a recent court hearing seeking to spike his conviction over suppressed evidence and shabby counsel.

“And, sir,” said Miss Mott to Mr. Noblett. “I came to you asking for help, just to figure out if there was a history with the officers that we have in the problems that we continue to have our community, and you did not help me.”

Mr. Noblett disputed that accusation, saying that he’d told the radio journalists the requests could be filled only by an absent staffer.

The flash of temper came after Miss Mott had returned to her seat and said Mr. Noblett had lied when he contradicted her account of the morning of July 19 and demanded from his central seat at city council’s dais that she stop interrupting him.

“You are a liar and the truth is not in you,” she declared. “I was kicked out of city hall. I was. David Tulis was with me, and another witness. We were kicked out of city hall. You can say what you want. And that would make you a liar, and the truth is not in you.”

City hall runaround

Marie Mott makes a live video of her efforts to inspect a personnel file at city hall.

On the day in question, Miss Mott’s party got a runaround in attempting to inspect the personnel file of city officer Wright, involved in the Avery Gray daughter arrest. The police department front desk had said all personnel files were at the personnel department in city hall proper. At that office, a woman insisted the group had to cross the street to the city hall annex.

Miss Mott intended to assert her rights to personally inspect a city employee’s record, but was frustrated at several turns.

In the annex, Mr. Noblett greeted her said the woman handling open records requests was absent.

But Miss Mott insisted that the law requires record custodians to allow visual in-person perusal of personnel files once private details such as Social Security numbers and home phone numbers are marked out. The group returned to city hall. A security guard asked them to leave because “they” (unidentified official parties) had been “upset” by the press demands.

“I told her [a city attorney department official], as I told [Mr. Noblett], that the statute says with the exception of them being redacted of personal information we have a right to see the personnel file,” Miss Mott said in an interview. “Meaning, you get a Sharpie and mark out that information we do not need to see ***. He wanted to argue with me that they could only be requested through the portal, which is not what the statute says.”

The Moore group would perhaps have succeeded had it gone back to the personnel department and made demands for the physical file there for open personal inspection.

Coonrod questions

Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod demanded answers about the police violence cases cited by Miss Mott.

Zac McCullough, the assistant chief of police investigations, went to the microphone and promised to get answers about the Watt and Gray cases. The officer said he would contact Mrs. Coonrad with details, but could say nothing about the investigation into the police officer rape claims.

The rough encounter between Miss Mott, host of an 11 a.m. daily show at 92.7 NoogaRadio, and Mr. Noblett was a contrast to the high words spoken about Mr. Noblett at a vote to approve his nomination as city attorney. Council members harrumphed their approval in a unanimous roll-call vote, and family members and legal office staffers rose to applaud.

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