The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter was publicly reprimanded by his colleagues last week — but Tuesday's board meetings were little different than those of the last five-plus months.
A group of about 10 protesters showed up at the afternoon meeting holding signs with phrases like “Hunter has to go” and “make racism wrong again,” again decrying the Jan. 14 Facebook post in which the commissioner called U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig”and referred to Democrats as “Demonrats” and a “bunch of idiots.” A different, similarly sized group of protesters attended the commission’s 7 p.m. gathering to do it all over again.
Hunter, per usual, left both meetings prior to the start of the public comment periods used by the protesters to voice their displeasure.
“Commissioners, I appreciate your consensus and conclusion that Tommy Hunter deserved to be publicly sanctioned,” Lilburn resident Rachel Theus said at the early meeting. “And now I ask that you collectively call for his resignation.”
The reprimand “was a step in the right direction,” another protester, Peachtree Ridge High School junior Gabriela Maduro, said. “But he needs to resign.”
Last week’s public reprimand was the final result an ethics complaint filed against Hunter in February over his Facebook post about Lewis and others. The reprimand — which noted a “pattern of behavior that fails to adequately consider the good of the County” — was posted on the county’s website and the courthouse wall, and will be published in the county’s legal organ on Wednesday.
Despite the small degree of closure afforded by the reprimand, folks on both sides of the issue made it clear the saga wasn’t over.
Hunter is currently suing the county and its ethics board, claiming the latter is unconsitutional and that his First Amendment rights were violated. Judge Melodie Snell Conner has not scheduled a hearing in the case, but Hunter’s attorney, Dwight Thomas, and consultant, Seth Weathers, both said after the commissioner’s reprimand that the lawsuit would still be pursued.
Anti-Hunter groups, meanwhile, are considering the possibility of mounting a recall election effort. That hefty feat would involved getting signatures from 30 percent of the voters in Hunter’s District 3, but the waiting period for beginning such an effort is nearly over.
State law does not allow recall efforts to be launched within 180 days of an official beginning their term. Hunter was re-elected in November and began his term Jan. 1.
And, as they demonstrated Tuesday afternoon and evening, those opposed to Hunter plan to continue protesting at commission meetings.
“We are not going away,” Loganville resident Phyllis Richardson, the leader of a group called United Together, said. “We will be here every commission meeting ... We're going to continue to fight.”
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