MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed says the profanity-laced audio clips released Monday were not only heavily altered but an attempt to extort him. Reed took to the podium Tuesday to explain what really happened and led to the release of the tapes.
“Being here today is not because of a doctored or manipulated audio clip. Being here today is because of an extortion attempt on the mayor of this city, by a man by the name of Charles Lee,” Reed said.
Reed explained that Charles Lee, owner and founder of That’s My Dog and That’s My Child, had not only recorded the audio but used it to extort him.
Lee has since reacted to the mayor’s accusations, telling WSFA 12 News he never asked for any money. As for the mayor’s claim that the audio was “doctored or manipulated,” Lee said the recordings were edited down from a conversation that lasted for an hour and a half.
“His extortion attempt during the George Floyd aftermath was one of the most despicable and disgusting acts of cowardice I have ever heard of or have been a part of,” Reed said.
Reed explained the clips were recorded nearly three years ago following the death of George Floyd. Reed said he wanted to deliver a speech to the community away from city hall in the wake of Floyd’s death and invited community members to be a part of the conversation.
According to Reed, during a meeting with Lee, it became apparent that he had an alterative motive. Reed said Lee was an “angry person” who came to the meeting out of the interest of personal gain.
Reed said during the meeting, Lee began asking for $30,000 that he was supposedly promised from a previous administration.
Later on, Reed said Lee began trying to extort him, asking for money in exchange to destroy the audio.
“Charles Lee is a liar, he is shyster and is a hustler. Let me be absolutely clear about that,” Reed said.
Reed said he has no issue testifying and plans to seek legal action against Lee.
Reached for comment, Montgomery County District Attorney Darryl Bailey said “Some years ago I met with Mayor Reed’s Chief of Staff and a local attorney at their request. The subject of the meeting was a complaint on Charles Lee. After the meeting I was informed by Mayor Reed’s Chief of Staff that the Mayor did not wish to pursue an investigation into the matters alleged. That was the extent of my involvement.”
The news conference followed Reed’s release of a statement late Monday night in which he stated:
The recordings were uploaded to several social sites, including Facebook and YouTube, by a group calling itself “Montgomery Deserves Better.”
Reed’s statement prior to the news conference indicated he was speaking “with a member of the Montgomery community,” not a group of people. The mayor did not release the name of the person he was speaking to at that time, but during his news conference pointed his allegations at Lee.
Lee said he was in the room when Reed made the statements but noted a group of community activists, whom he declined to name, were meeting with the mayor following the death of George Floyd to discuss keeping peace in the city.
When asked why the 3-year-old audio was not released until now, Lee said everyone involved in the meeting made a pact to not release it until they all gave the green light to make it public. It’s unclear what prompted each to reach agreement on greenlighting the publication.
Lee said he did not record the audio and declined to say who did, though he seemed to imply more audio from the meeting would be released.
“You keep fighting us,” Lee said of the mayor. “You keep fighting the people that’s been trying to help you. So long, that’s it. People going to hear all the stuff on the tape. And I’m sure it’s going to all come out someday or whatever, but at the end of the day I know I’m going to be on the right side of it, fighting for the community where I’ve always done. And when people hear the rest of it, they’re going to see that I’ve always been fighting for this community.”
At this point, neither Lee nor anyone else has released a full, unedited version of the mayor’s secretly-recorded discussion.
In the first audio clip, the mayor can be heard saying the following:
In the second audio clip, the mayor can be heard saying the following:
In the third audio clip, the mayor can be heard saying the following:
Some Montgomery city councilmembers declined to comment, while others did not respond to requests. Other councilmembers did offer their reactions to the mayor’s audio.
“I have received many inquiries from constituents regarding the tapes released last night. Community members are rightfully concerned by several of the comments allegedly offered by Mayor Reed in the recordings in question,” District 7 Montgomery City Councilman Clay McInnis said. “In the interest of maintaining the public trust, I strongly urge our Mayor and his office to offer a swift and direct explanation regarding this development.”
“We’re all shocked,” added District 2 Montgomery City Councilman Brantley Lyons. “We’re just like eyeballs wide-open, can’t believe, you know, what we saw, and what we heard.” Lyons added “we certainly don’t agree with any of those comments that were, that were made,” stressing the city council does not stand behind it.
“After hearing the alleged recordings of Mayor Reed’s conversations, I am shocked, deeply concerned, and incredibly disheartened,” said District 1 Montgomery City Councilman Ed Grimes, who also comments on the mayor’s mention of Maxwell Air Force Base.
“My family has close ties to the military, as do a lot of other people in the River Region,” Grimes stated. “Maxwell-Gunter AFB is a huge economic driver in the River Region and a great community partner! But the most important reason I hold Maxwell-Gunter AFB, and the individuals that work there, in such high regard, is that these are the individuals that fight and work to maintain the freedoms that we all enjoy.”
Reed, who is currently in his first term as Montgomery’s first Black mayor, was sworn into office in 2019 after winning more than 67% of the vote.
Reed had previously made history as Montgomery County’s first Black probate judge, as well as its youngest, in 2012. He went on to win an unopposed re-election to the office in 2018 before setting his sights on city hall.
The release of the audio comes just months before Montgomery residents will go to the polls to elect their choices for the city’s next mayor and city council members.