January 17, 2017, Atlanta — Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter listens to Gwinnett residents who turned out Tuesday to rail against the “racist pig” comment that Hunter posted on Facebook about John Lewis. (Henry Taylor/ henry.taylor@ajc.com)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Fellow Gwinnett commissioner: Tommy Hunter ‘likes kicking things up’

All of Tommy Hunter’s counterparts on the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners have now disavowed the controversial Facebook post in which he called civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig.” 

Board chair Charlotte Nash publicly apologized to Lewis on Tuesday, but District 1 Commissioner Jace Brooks, District 2 Commissioner Lynette Howard and District 4 Commissioner John Heard had not commented publicly until Wednesday.

Brooks and Howard spoke to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by phone. Heard released a statement through a county spokesman. 

Brooks called diversity one of Gwinnett’s “greatest strengths.”

“I disagree with what Commissioner Hunter said and I don’t have those same thoughts or feelings,” Brooks said. “And I feel pretty confident that the rest of the board doesn’t either.”

Howard denounced Hunter’s statements and called them “inappropriate.” 

“He’s very down to Earth and he does care about the county and issues at hand,” Howard said. “But he does like being ... I don’t know if controversial’s the right word. I think he likes kicking things up and making people think. I think that’s been his personality.”

In his statement released early Wednesday evening, Heard said he was “proud” of the protesters who spoke out against Hunter the previous day.

“I want to be clear that I do not agree with Commissioner Hunter’s comments and I hope that he will do the right thing for the citizens he represents,” he said.

Hunter became the center of controversy on Monday after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published screenshots of several posts on his personal Facebook page. The “racist pig” post was written Saturday afternoon amid a well-publicized feud between Lewis and president-elect Donald Trump.

The same post referred to Democrats as “Demonrats.”

A recent Facebook post from Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter.

Hunter has since apologized for his “choice of words” and said the “racist pig” comment was “an overreaction out of aggravation.” 

Hunter was first elected to serve Gwinnett’s District 3, which covers a diverse swath of southern and eastern parts of the county, in 2012 and he narrowly won re-election in November. He has said he has no plans to resign.

Calls for that to happen have come from the Gwinnett County Democratic Party and dozens of protesters who attended a Tuesday afternoon meeting of the Board of Commissioners. 

On Tuesday, Nash read a letter she said she personally sent to Lewis. Though it didn’t use Hunter’s name, it apologized for his actions. 

Hunter’s employer, Norcross-based United Consulting, has also sent an apology letter to Lewis.

RELATED: Torpy at Large: With ‘racist pig,’ a goof falls on his Facebook

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Howard said the calls for Hunter to resign are “something that he and his constituents have to work through.” She encouraged him to take advantage of an offer from a group called Asian Americans Advancing Justice, which invited him to “schedule a series of meetings with our organization and other organizations that serve communities of color in his district to discuss our grievances.”

Howard also said she wants the board to "revisit” the code of conduct that its members – including Hunter – voted to adopt in 2014. 

Asked if she thought Hunter was racist, Howard first said “I don’t know,” saying she only knew him in a work capacity. After a few seconds of thought, though, she said she didn’t think he was.

“If he deals with people in his district, I don’t know how he can be,” she said.

Brooks had the same tepid endorsement.

“That has not been my experience with Commissioner Hunter,” he said.

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