Citizen Says Social Media Posts By Official Indicates He Harbors Disdain For Police, White People
By JOHN SCOTT COOPER, Staff Writer
One of the Waycross city commissioners was accused in a citizen’s complaint with appearing to agree with Facebook posts that are derogatory and “demeaning” to police officers and white people.
The citizen who spoke to the commission at Monday’s planning and information session at City Hall was Christin Sweat. She had been forewarned that she wouldn’t be allowed to accuse anyone by name, so the commissioner who was “tagged” to Facebook comments posted by local African American activist Bobby Worthy was not identified.
She said a photo of two African American police officers was posted by Worthy with demeaning comments attached. She said the Facebook page also included derogatory comments about white people. The commissioner was tagged to the comments which, according to Sweat, is an action the tagged person must agree to. She called the action “unethical.”
Sweat cited the lack of ethics after Commissioner Marian Solomon-Gaines responded, saying the mayor and other commissioners could do nothing about someone exercising his First Amendment rights but that such behavior might break their code of ethics.
“We are a ‘city of ethics,’” Solomon-Gaines said, referring to the commission having enacted an ethics compact for city officials. “I’m not sure what we can do, but I intend to speak with the city attorney, mayor and other commissioners. We’re elected by the people and should be accountable to the people, all the people. We’re accountable to each other by ethics.”
Sweat continued to warn the commission that a public “smearing” of some people like this is not good in a time when there are raised racial tensions. And she said such comments from someone in a position of power were wrong for someone “looked up to,” a bad example for young people.
“I am about ‘all lives matter,’” Sweat said. “I wish this commissioner was for ‘all lives matter.’”
She also said she had spoken to the governor’s office about the Facebook comments.
Mayor Clarence Billups ended the conversation, saying nothing more about the matter would be accomplished at the meeting.
The commission discussed issues that will be dealt with during the meeting tonight at 7 such as a lease purchase agreement with the Georgia Municipal Association to purchase a front-end loader ($144,600) and backhoe ($80,700) the city has already received and begun to use.
They also expect to vote on an ordinance text amendment concerning transient merchants, peddlers and solicitors, raising the temporary license fees and quantifying the length of the term the license.
Commissioner Norman Davis expressed concerns about the city’s contract with a probation agency that has, in his words, been automatically renewed each year without review by the commission. He agreed to a recommendation that City Attorney Rick Currie make sure the contract will not put the city in legal dangers that some communities have found themselves in because those other probation agencies were found to be involved in questionable practices.
The issue arose because Davis is concerned about unintended results of a change in Municipal Court sentencing the city commission approved. In an effort to help probationers afford their probation payments, the city leaders had court rules changed to allow certain cased to be sentenced to 12 months of probation instead of six. Davis is worried this will saddle them with additional supervisory fees paid to the probation agency and, therefore, negate the benefit the commissioners intended to give to probationers.