Councilwoman Hattie Portis-Jones (left) and Mayor Elizabeth Carr-Hurst (right) watch over a park and recreation award presentation during the City Council work session and council meeting on Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, in Fairburn. CURTIS COMPTON/CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Ethics complaint against Fairburn mayor dropped

Fairburn Councilwoman Hattie Portis-Jones has withdrawn an ethics complaint against Mayor Elizabeth Carr-Hurst in an episode that exemplified government dysfunction in the south Fulton County city.

Portis-Jones, who alleged in the complaint that the mayor physically threatened her, said she dropped the complaint days before it was to be heard out of concern for city employees.

“I realized that putting the employees through the daunting task and intimating experience of a public hearing — testifying and being cross examined about one elected official, the mayor, against another, a council member — was not in their best interest or the interest of any city employees or for the City of Fairburn,” Portis-Jones said in an email.

In her complaint, Portis-Jones claimed Hurst-Carr called her “bitch,” physically threatened her and had to be physically restrained by the police chief and another city council member following a council meeting in June. Portis-Jones claimed such “tactics of bullying” are common from the mayor.

“Although the most egregious to date, this incident is one of many I and numerous current and former employees have endured from Elizabeth Carr-Hurst since she became mayor,” she wrote in the complaint.

Through her personal attorney, Carr-Hurst said the complaint was unfounded and the she and the city were “moving on.”

In an interview Wednesday, Portis-Jones said she stands by the substance of the complaint, but she said she had become increasingly concerned that pursuing the complaint would be unfair to city employees who would be called as witnesses.

Carr-Hurst, whose governing style was criticized by a number of current and former city employees in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation earlier this year, did not return a call or email seeking comment. However, in a prior interview, she denied the accusations and described herself as “a very professional person.”

Relations between Portis-Jones and Carr-Hurst are strained. In the recent Oct. 28 council meeting, Carr-Hurst shot back at Portis-Jones when she questioned the funding for a study of a proposed pedestrian bridge over U.S. 29 and the CSX railway that bisects the city. The bridge is part of a larger plan to remake the city’s main thoroughfare.

“The city of Fairburn is not broke,” Carr-Hurst said. “It’s not that we are spending monies that we don’t have. In order for us to move this city forward we are going to have to do certain things.”

When Portis-Jones asked to be recognized for further comment, Carr-Hurst called for a vote instead, and the study passed. As the meeting closed, Carr-Hurst make it clear she wasn’t going anywhere.

“I am the mayor of this city. I was elected for four years, so I am looking to see you again in 2021 sitting right here,” she said. “Is that a hint to someone?”

The recorded audio continued after the meeting adjourned and the mayor spoke to supporters. Into a live microphone, Carr-Hurst offered her summary of Portis-Jones. “She is crazy,” she said.

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