Sources: City cabinet member suspended over Ch. 2 interviews

by: Richard Belcher Updated:

Deborah Lum

ATLANTA,None - Channel 2 Action News has learned a member of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's cabinet has been suspended because she granted an interview to Channel 2.

Two sources said the mayor's chief of staff ordered the suspension this week.

Channel 2's Richard Belcher  said it's another signal of the administration's sensitivity about news coverage.

Channel 2 Action News interviewed Deborah Lum twice recently in her role as executive director of the city's Workforce Development Agency.

Belcher conducted the first interview, and Channel 2's Jodie Fleischer the latest one, which earned Lum a suspension.

The issue in both interviews was airport jobs being created by the new, but controversial, concessionaire contracts and about the city's role in helping people get those jobs.

In Belcher's interview, conducted on Jan. 11, Lum said, "We don't care who wins the bid, we just want to have a pool of people ready."

Last week, the news was less upbeat in a story by Fleischer.

A major concessionaire that had lost its contract announced more than 500 layoffs, but Lum was optimistic about those people landing new airport jobs.

"We've asked them to let us have a job fair at the airport, so that people who are potentially being laid off will get first dibs on the news jobs," Lum said.

Despite the layoffs, Lum's response appeared to soften a fundamentally negative story about airport layoffs.


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But the mayor's office was not happy. Sources told Belcher the chief of staff, Candace Byrd, blew up during a cabinet meeting about leaks or other unauthorized contacts with reporters.

We're told it was Byrd who ordered Lum's suspension for last week's Channel 2 interview.

This is not the first time the administration has shown its sensitivity about relations with the news media. The mayor let fly during a city council meeting last month.

"You know what my Christmas present was, Michael? It was a massive front-page story on the front page of the AJC (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) besmirching my character, my name," Reed said during the meeting.

Lum's suspension is 15 days or three weeks.

Belcher left a voicemail for Lum, but she did not respond.

The mayor's communications director told Belcher by phone they don't comment on personnel matters.


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