Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed defended Monday his decision to contact United Consulting, a city vendor that also employs embattled Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter.
Reed last week sent a threatening letter to the Norcross-based engineering firm, denouncing the content of Hunter’s now infamous Jan. 14 Facebook post — in which he called civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig” — and asking how the company planned to “resolve this matter.”
United Consulting CEO Reza Abree sent a letter back to the mayor on Friday afternoon, decrying Hunter’s social media activity and saying the commissioner had been “disciplined as any other employee with the company would be disciplined for such a transgression.” What, exactly, that discipline entailed is unclear.
A Reed spokesperson said Friday that the mayor appreciated the company’s “timely response” but did not comment further.
At a Monday morning event at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, however, Reed defended his decision to make what he called “an inquiry about [Hunter’s] employment.”
“They sent a letter back to us and we reviewed it and that's it,” the mayor told reporters.
He then added the following: “So the vendor responded to us, but the bottom line is that an employee with their company called Congressman John Lewis a racist pig. We are a customer of that company, so it was wholly appropriate for us to say, you know, ‘What is going on with this individual in your organization?’”
According to United Consulting’s website, its work for the city of Atlanta has included nearly a decade of consulting with the Department of Watershed Management and investigating contamination at the Chattahoochee Water Treatment Plant, among other projects.
Reed’s letter to the company also triggered a pointed war of words with Seth Weathers, a consultant who has acted as Hunter’s spokesman in the aftermath of his Facebook post.
Asked Friday about the mayor’s letter, Weathers suggested Reed was trying to “divert attention away from himself and his corruption scandal in the city of Atlanta.”
Weathers statements referred to the federal bribery investigation currently rocking Atlanta City Hall. Two contractors have pleaded guilty to paying bribes to get city contracts, and Atlanta’s chief procurement officer was fired Tuesday as federal agents seized items from his office.
Reed has not been implicated in the ongoing investigation.
“I had heard about Reed’s mob style politics,” Weathers added, “but never witnessed it until now.”
In response to that, a spokesperson for Reed sent a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution saying the city was “entirely within our rights to communicate our dissatisfaction” with United Consulting.
“Finally, you should not throw stones when you live in a glass house,” the statement said, in part. “Hunter is familiar with allegations of corruption in his home county’s government, and should know all too well how it feels to be linked with a matter that you were not aware of nor involved in.”
The ethics complaint filed against Hunter earlier this month claims he violated tenets of Gwinnett’s ethics ordinance, which was adopted in 2011 amid a corruption scandal involving shady land deals and multiple county commissioners. Hunter was first elected to the Board of Commissioners in 2012.
Hunter has been under fire from protesters and advocacy groups since The AJC first published screenshots of his controversial Facebook post, which was written amid a well-publicized feud between Lewis and then-president-elect Donald Trump.
Lewis sparked that feud when he said he didn’t think Trump was a legitimate president.
The same post in which Hunter called Lewis a “racist pig” also referred to Democrats as “Demonrats” and a “bunch of idiots.”
Hunter narrowly won re-election over Democratic challenger Jasper Watkins in November’s election. His District 3 covers a diverse swath of southern and eastern Gwinnett, from the Centerville area up to Braselton.
The commissioner walked out of last week’s board meeting just as the public comment period began. In the aftermath of Hunter’s Facebook post, such periods have been filled with protesters. Weathers has said Hunter also plans to skip public comment portions of meetings for the “foreseeable future” because the protesters are “taking away from other individuals who have other concerns.”
The board’s next meeting is at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
—Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article