Attorney wants to come clean in Brookhaven’s Lysol flap

There’s an offer on the table that could shed more light on why Brookhaven officials spent weeks hiding allegations of sexual harassment against the ex-mayor.

Former Brookhaven City Attorney Tom Kurrie resgined to avoid being fired over his handling of harassment allegations against the ex-mayor. SPECIAL

Former Brookhaven City Attorney Tom Kurrie resigned to avoid being fired over his handling of harassment allegations against the ex-mayor. SPECIAL

Tom Kurrie, the former city attorney who lost his position because of the subterfuge, has asked the city council to waive attorney-client privilege on the issue. Presumably, he would be free to explain why he altered a city email and put misleading statements in a press release, shrouding accusations that J. Max Davis had sprayed a female employee’s backside with Lysol air freshener.

The big question: Did anyone direct him or influence him to do that? The withholding of records happened just as Davis embarked on his ongoing campaign for the vacant House District 80 seat.

Last week, Kurrie seemingly answered the question in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“ … To make it clear, I forwarded the documents to you and others,” Kurrie said, objecting that an earlier blog didn’t explain his attorney-client limitations. “You received it from my email. The then Mayor had no involvement in preparation of the document that was submitted to you.”

Kurrie has so far not responded to follow-up questions about whether he accepts sole responsibility, and his request to waive privilege is stalled for now. Council members would have to vote on it, but interim City Attorney Christopher Balch says he’s not putting the option in front of them until Kurrie narrows his request.

Balch said too much disclosure could complicate another mess left in the wake of the aerosol flap. An executive assistant who claims to have witnessed the spraying incident filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging Davis tried to bully her into changing her story. That could lead to a lawsuit.

“I’m not willing to put the city of Brookhaven at further risk, just so (Kurrie) can defend himself,” Balch said. “You start opening those doors, you open every door for every conversation that ever existed.”

In May, Kurrie held back a key email describing the allegations against Davis, releasing only a truncated and heavily redacted version. The AJC and The Brookhaven Post objected, and Kurrie finally released a fuller version of the email in mid-June.

Davis, who denies spraying the aerosol can at the woman’s rear end, said neither he nor his supporters had anything to do with manipulating records.

Former Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis is in the runoff for the vacant House District 80 seat, which will be decided August 11. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Former Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis is in the Aug. 11 runoff for the vacant House District 80 seat. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

“No, I did not alter any documents or email,” Davis said. “I did not have any pen to redact, I did not have the ability to do any of that. It is not my job, not my place.”

So what, then, does Kurrie want to reveal?

“I think it’s just that he doesn’t want people to think that his handling of this was done in a vacuum,” Davis said. “Tom was being threatened with litigation if he released private information … The person who was the one that was allegedly sprayed on her shoulders said that she didn’t want any of her private information or anything about this released, and if he did she would sue. So he was in a tough spot.”

Of course, a comparison of the two released versions of the email shows the omissions and redactions were more designed to protect Davis.

Version 1

Version 2

The state Attorney General’s office has since ruled that withholding the email, and holding closed city council sessions to talk about whether to release it, violated Georgia’s sunshine laws.

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