A dozen or so protesters turned up Monday afternoon outside the office of United Consulting, the Norcross engineering firm that employs embattled Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter.
Positioned on both sides of busy Holcomb Bridge Road, they carried signs and chanted a familiar slogan: “Hunter must go, Hunter must go, Hunter must go.”
“We don't want anybody to lose their source of income,” one of the protest’s organizers, Phyllis Richardson, said. “But we do want [United Consulting] to say hey, if you're not going to step down as a commissioner, based on the things you did, then you really don’t deserve a space here.”
Hunter is a vice president for business development at United Consulting. He has been under fire since The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first published a Jan. 14 Facebook post in which he called civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig.”
The post also referred to Democrats as “Demonrats” and a “bunch of idiots.”
Hunter has apologized for his “choice of words” in his post but has repeatedly said he won’t resign from his post as District 3 commissioner.
Monday afternoon was the first time protesters had directly targeted Hunter’s private employer — but Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed went that less than two weeks ago, sending United Consulting CEO Reza Abree a letter asking how he was going to “resolve this matter.”
Abree, whose company has a long history of doing business with the city of Atlanta, responded with a letter saying Hunter had been “disciplined as any other employee with the company would be disciplined for such a transgression.”
What that discipline entailed has remained unclear.
United Consulting denounced Hunter’s comments in its letter to Reed and in another statement released the day after The AJC first published screenshots of the commissioner’s Facebook posts. The company also sent a formal apology to Lewis.
United Consulting did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday afternoon.
Seth Weathers, a political consultant who has acted as a spokesman for Hunter, did offer a response. A snarky one.
“Democrats sure do hate small businesses!” he wrote in a text message to The AJC.
Protesters have showed up at every Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners meeting since Hunter’s posts were first published, even after the commissioner decided two weeks ago to skip out on the public comment periods during which most protesters have made their voices heard.
Richardson and others gathered outside United Consulting on Monday afternoon said that decision played a role in their newest form of protesters.
Snellville resident Carol Stephens said she showed up because Hunter was “disrespecting us by leaving meetings.”
“I'm a resident of Gwinnett County, and I don’t think Tommy Hunter represents all the people of his district by making the comments that he's made,” Stephens said.
Hunter is also the subject of an ethics complaint, which claims he violated several sections of Gwinnett’s 2011 ethics ordinance. One of those sections urges county officials and employees to “never engage in conduct which is unbecoming to a member or which constitutes a breach of public trust.”
The county’s first-ever ethics board is in the process of being assembled to hear the complaint. If the complaint is sustained, possible penalties that could be recommended by the ethics board range from written reprimand to removal from office or referral to criminal authorities.
The Board of Commissioners may make its appointment to the ethics board during Tuesday’s 2 p.m. meeting.
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