AJC: Swindall attempts to oust flea market tenants
By Mike Morris
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A simmering dispute between Pat Swindall and tenants of an indoor flea market he operates boiled over Tuesday morning when the former congressman showed up at the Old National Discount Mall, threatening to dismantle the vendors' booths.
Swindall, who has lost his lease on the building in the Old National Village shopping center on Godby Road in College Park, is moving the discount mall to a new location in Jonesboro, and on Saturday tenants were notified by letter that they would have to begin moving their merchandise out of the old location on Tuesday.
But according to several of the more than 100 tenants, they were advised by the owner of Old National Village that the flea market would remain open under new management, and they could remain in their current location if they chose not to move to Swindall's new operation.
Tuesday morning, several dozen tenants arrived at Old National Village before daybreak, saying they had been told by Swindall Monday night that he intended to tear down the inside of the flea market, beginning at 7 a.m.
Swindall arrived about 10 a.m. and barred the merchants from entering, telling them that he was going in and would be tearing down the walls that subdivide the inside of the mall into individual shops.
After a few minutes, College Park code enforcement officers and police entered the building, and shortly thereafter, Swindall exited, got into a minivan and left without comment.
"We have people that's been here for 18 years, we have people here 10 years," said Kebba Janneh, who has operated a clothing store in the mall for two years.
Janneh said that when Swindall tried to get him to sign a lease for the new location, "we told him we wish you luck, but we want to stay."
Swindall's attorney contends that Swindall has a right to remove the walls that delineate the individual stalls within the flea market.
"When a department store moves to a new location, the department store is entitled to take its fixtures," Swindall's attorney, Richard Robbins, told WAGA-TV. "There's nothing wrong with that and there's nothing wrong with what Pat is doing."
Swindall was elected to Georgia's 4th Congressional District seat in 1984 and re-elected in 1986. (As a Democrat)
He lost a bid for a third term after he was indicted on perjury charges. After being convicted, Swindall served eight-and-a-half months in a federal prison.