Council censures Stonecrest mayor over ‘inflammatory’ rant during meeting

210415-Stonecrest-Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary at city hall on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
210415-Stonecrest-Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary at city hall on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

The Stonecrest City Council censured Mayor Jason Lary over a rant that took place during a public meeting last week, where he threatened to show everyone his “hairy behind” the next time he feels disrespected.

During a special-called meeting Monday, the council voted 4-1 to censure the mayor for his conduct and asked the acting city manager to draft a decorum policy for public officials.

“If we don’t address it, it goes as if we are complicit and concur with it,” said Mayor Pro Tem George Turner, who presented the resolution to censure Lary.

Lary has been fairly quiet since he returned in August from a prolonged medical leave amid a series of financial investigations and scandals. A recent charter change reduced his position’s power, including stripping the mayor of voting privileges except to break ties. The mayor pro tem also presides over meetings instead of the mayor.

However, Lary spoke up at the end of a three-hour meeting on Sept. 27 to complain he felt slighted by the council, including a reduction in his monthly vehicle allowance and his removal from various committees. He also complained city staff were not formally recognizing him during meetings.

“I appreciate the work that you all are doing, but I’m going to ask city staff and other folks that come on this call, if you don’t know protocol, you better learn it with me,” Lary said. “You don’t recognize mayor pro tem and council and just leave me standing like I’m not at the meeting. I will show you my hairy behind the next time it happens. And that’s the only warning I’m going to give with this.”

He continued by focusing on his history as the city’s founding mayor when Stonecrest was chartered about five years ago.

“I created this place so that all of us would have somewhere to serve,” Lary said. “And while I was gone, you all voted and took me off of all of it, which I think is immoral and just wrong. Period.”

He added that he requested for City Attorney Winston Denmark to look into his removal from city committees. He finished by saying, “I still have people standing in the way. Do not keep pushing me.”

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The resolution called Lary’s comments “ill-tempered,” “inflammatory” and “immature.” The decorum policy that’s in the drafting process is poised to include “appropriate sanctions” for violations. The draft will be discussed at the next City Council work session.

After Monday’s vote, Lary told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the councilmembers who voted to censure him are “cowards.”

“Everything with them is done in the darkness of night. Every negative issue is with the mayor,” Lary said in a text message. “They purposely foster disrespect behind the scene with the very staff that I hired. The public only sees the tip of the iceberg. Let’s see what happens in the fall elections.”

Lary is named in an internal investigation report that found strong evidence that some of the city’s $6.2 million in federal pandemic relief funds were used in a kickback scheme by city staff members. Lary, who denied those allegations, continues to defend the prior program and the employees who were fired and replaced as a result of the investigation.

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Neither Lary nor anyone else mentioned in the investigative report has been charged with any crimes.

The mayor is also accused of abusing his city-issued purchasing card, entering improper contracts on behalf of the city and writing unapproved checks using city funds. While he was on medical leave, the council voted to revoke his purchasing card and check-writing privileges.

Councilman Jimmy Clanton was the sole dissenting vote Monday, and he said he thought the council was moving too fast to censure the mayor before they passed a decorum policy. He added that, “I’ll be frank with you, I’ve heard worse” during prior public meetings.

It’s unclear whether Clanton was referring to comments from Lary during prior meetings, but there have been several tense meetings over the past year in Stonecrest. Several meetings have included threats of legal action, investigations and name-calling.

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