Coffin files lawsuit over firing by city

Tom Coffin, whose sudden firing as senior arborist for the city of Atlanta in July sparked citizen protests, filed suit against the city in Fulton County Superior Court on Feb. 13. Coffin’s lawsuit charges the city with violations of the Georgia whistleblower statute and his right to free speech under the Georgia Constitution.

Coffin, 65, was one of the first field arborists the city hired in 2000 to implement a rewritten Tree Protection Ordinance. He was elevated to the new post of senior arborist in October 2007, with supervisory responsibility for the field arborist operation.

The lawsuit claims he was fired after presenting evidence to his superiors of a lack of enforcement of the ordinance by other arborists and while trying to initiate disciplinary action against two subordinates for failing to enforce the tree ordinance.

Coffin said he is dismayed by the need to go to court. “The City Council passed and the mayor signed the Tree Protection Ordinance in recognition of how important trees are to the health and well-being of the city. I was hired to enforce the law and to ensure that my colleagues did so as well.

“My firing leaves the city with a broken ordinance and a mockery of enforcement. It is outrageous that I should have to sue for my job while the city, in the midst of a severe economic crisis, pays five field arborists to ‘look the other way’ and make excuses for their lack of performance and accountability to the law.”

Chief: City ‘vulnerable’as six fire stations close

Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran said the city was “at an extreme level of vulnerability” Feb. 14 for the second time in two weeks because of furloughs and an unusual number of firefighters calling in sick.

Cochran made similar comments Feb. 1 when 27 firefighters called in sick.

The average for illnesses on a shift is 13.

The combination of furloughed firefighters and 25 calling in sick Feb. 14 reduced staffing to 126. In response, the Fire Department closed Station 7 on Lee Street, Station 26 on Moores Mill Road in Buckhead, Station 12 on DeKalb Avenue, Station 22 on Hollywood Road, Station 30 on Cleveland Avenue and Station 23 on Howell Mill Road.

Buckhead Village remap goes to hearing March 10

The final public meeting for the revised and expanded Buckhead Village SPI-9 overlay district will be March 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Forum Room at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, 3180 Peachtree Road, Buckhead.

The meeting will be the final opportunity for residents, developers and other stakeholders to provide input into the drafting of the SPI-9 ordinance before the formal adoption process through the city of Atlanta.