City Council candidate Le’Dor Milteer has been involved in several landlord-tenant legal cases, as both plaintiff and defendant, and had a musical career as a rapper under the stage name Phoenix the Fire Starter.
Milteer, who is competing against Jody Reichel for the District 4 council seat, said her life experiences in the courts and the music world will help her represent the city’s businesses, artists and residents facing unsafe conditions or unfair treatment.
Among the legal cases are a pending lawsuit Milteer and her husband, Vonche, filed against their former landlords at a Sandy Springs house, and a 2010 checking account garnishment for about $64,500 in debt from the failure of Milteer’s Sandy Springs Hair Studio salon.
The pending lawsuit stems from the Milteers’ claims of severe maintenance issues with the house they rented at 230 Wembley Circle. In 2016, they sued the landlords, identified in court documents as Shan and Niti Mehrota of Alpharetta, and settled out of court.
In March of this year, the Milteers filed a new lawsuit claiming the Mehrotas withheld a security deposit and other fees in “revenge” for the previous suit. Le’Dor Milteer said the couple is having trouble moving the case forward because the landlords live overseas and use “shell companies.”
“Given my own personal experience and the fact this situation is far too common in our country,” she said in an email, “I will be a fighter for those in Sandy Springs who are being improperly treated, and work to ensure that all families in our city have safe and suitable living conditions.”
In her campaign, Milteer has cited the failure several years ago of her two local hair salons as among her reasons for getting interested in city government and how its programs work, saying she was unaware of some assistance she might have gained. Fulton County court records show that in 2010, the landlord of one salon got a court-ordered garnishment of funds from Vonche Milteer’s checking account.
Le’Dor Milteer initially said in an interview that she did not recall the garnishment order, but later confirmed the case and said it involved unpaid rent, noting it was paid within weeks.
“We legally settled all debts from our business and treated our creditors, employees, suppliers, and customers fairly and professionally,” Milteer said in an email, adding that she learned a lot running a small business. “On the Sandy Springs City Council, I look forward to supporting our small and local business community, and ensuring they get the support and policies they need to thrive and help create jobs and tax revenue here in Sandy Springs.”
DeKalb County court records show Milteer, under her maiden name Phoenix, was the subject of two 2003 claims for unpaid rent in Stone Mountain, one of which was listed as an open case. Milteer said she did not recall either case, but that she had never been evicted and assumes she was simply late on rent a couple of times. The case listed as “open” was apparently an error and the plaintiff’s attorney is filing to dismiss it, she said.
Milteer is currently known for producing and hosting a cable TV talk show about public affairs, but had not previously discussed her roughly seven-year career as rapper Phoenix the Fire Starter, a reference to her maiden name and energetic personality.
Milteer said in an email “like many other public officials, including President Donald J. Trump,” she had a previous entertainment industry career. “I come from a family of musicians” and submitted songs and screenplays to record and TV companies, she said.
She said she stopped performing about 10 years ago to focus on business, college and raising her family.
Many Phoenix the Fire Starter songs, performance videos and publicity photos remain available online. One song, “Let My Arm Go,” encourages women to stand up to men who grope or assault them.
The publicity photos include some provocative shots, such as Milteer laying on a floor in handcuffs and holding a large cup with the word “pimp” written on it in gemstones.
One biography, posted on an artist booking site, said she performed on a “full Atlanta strip club tour,” naming three downtown clubs. Strip clubs have been controversial in Sandy Springs, as the city has been embroiled in zoning-related lawsuits with local clubs for over 10 years. Milteer said the biography was incorrect, but noted that strip club performances can be an important part of the hip hop music business, as DJs play there.
“I didn’t do a strip club tour, but it would have been a good tour at the time,” she said with a laugh.
As for publicity photos, Milteer said, “It was the music industry. It’s a completely different expression [from community service] … It was all about promoting.”
She added that some images were altered or “fabricated” for publicity purposes, while others might have been staged for specific cross-promotions. As one example, she said, “maybe if a rapper was called Pimp and he wanted me to a hold a ‘Pimp’ cup,” adding that there was indeed a rapper of that name.
“I will be a supporter of the arts on the Sandy Springs City Council as well and support other young people who are pursuing work in the arts,” Milteer said.