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February 23, 2024

Atlanta Public Library Attorney’s letter leaves out key points –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On August 22, 2017


We are going to jump forwards a little bit to write about the letter submitted by the attorney for the Atlanta Public Library District, Mr. Phillip Lenzini.

This letter was dated October 27, 2016, and written to Trustee Bill Thomas.

Incidentally, this letter was referenced by the Atlanta PD as evidence that no laws were broken – as if an attorney can simply proclaim something is legal, and their client never has to worry about being held accountable. That is not how the rule of law works – an attorney cannot provide cover for your actions.

The letter states that according to Section 3.1 of the Public Officers Prohibited Activities Act, if Trustee William Thomas did three things, he could lease his real estate to the Public Library – and these three things are part of Section 3 of the Act – which, by the way, a person has to meet ALL of the requirement to claim an exception, which was conveniently missing in this letter:

  1. full disclosure of your ownership in the property
  2. abstain from any discussion or debate of the Library Board concerning the leasing of the property
  3. recusal from any participation in the voting on the library board’s approval or action in the lease itself

Wow…what a deal! Sadly, some people might be inclined to take this letter and run with it, such as the police.

We touched on this subject in our previous article entitled “2014 Union Hall Contract for Purchase violated the law and will apply it to this attorney’s letter.

The problem with this letter, and I don’t know why Mr. Lenzini glossed over it, is that Bill Thomas failed to meet the other requirements under Section 3 that must be met for him to sell or lease his building to the library:

  • In addition to the letter’s recognition of full disclosure, not voting, and approval by a majority of the board, other REQUIREMENTS are:
  • Must PUBLICLY disclose the interest prior to or during discussions AND
  • Must have less than a 7 1/2% ownership share AND
  • Must be sealed bid if over $1500 AND
  • Contract would not cause an aggregate amount in the same fiscal year to exceed $25,000

Again, this letter is wrong and Trustee Bill Thomas is in an “alleged” conflict of interest and should be removed from the board and charged by the State’s Attorney – in addition, a complaint should be made to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission against the attorney for what we consider as bad advice.

So let us amuse ourselves and say, for the sake of argument, that the letter contains everything Bill Thomas needed to do in order to lease or sell his building to the library (which it doesn’t, and anyone who can read should know it).


If he was supposed to refrain from discussion and voting, then why did all of this happen?

  • He signed and submitted the “Live and Learn” grant (and other private grants) from the Sec of State which was used to remodel his privately owned building
  • He gave regular updates on its progress
  • He was on the committee that dealt with the Union Hall Project
  • The Library’s first “Installment Contract to Purchase” the building from him was in 2014 and included a self-serving “right to remain in the building as tenant”
  • His attorney created the documents for the 2014 contract
  • He was in the meeting in Sept 2015 where they discussed moving forwards with the lease or purchase and the board voted to purchase (he was in the meeting room)
  • He discussed, during the Oct 2015 meeting that John Yates was interested in buying the  building and leasing it back to the Library (direct and indirect financial interest in the contract)
  • Nov 2015, Bill Thomas told the board that Yates is purchasing the building and the Library would be able to lease the upstairs from him
  • May 2016 – the board, with Thomas present, discussed Bill Thomas using office space at the Union Hall after it was sold and the library was leasing space there
  • From May thru October, there were continued discussion of Yates’ purchase and the Library leasing
  • Oct 2016 – Library signed lease with Yates and discussed leasing space to Bill Thomas – he was in that meeting
  • December 2016 – Library signs new lease with Bill Thomas to lease the building from Thomas (not on agenda – public unaware)
  • June 2017 was the FIRST time during a meeting, according to meeting minutes going back as far as January 2013, where it was disclosed that Bill Thomas owned the building

In our opinion, by failing to follow the attorney’s letter, Thomas has a conflict – even when the letter does not list all of the requirements.

The Library District’s attorney was asked for comment and has not responded as of publication.




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1 Comment
  • Jannie
    Posted at 18:35h, 22 August

    I have learned in our county that in situations like this the lawyer conveniently leaves out pieces of information that do not benefit their client. Yes, there appears to be a conflict of interest. good luck.