‘Racist pig’ post spurs more protests, ethics talk in Gwinnett

Atlanta resident Nancie Turner, center, speaks Tuesday outside the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center about the ethics complaint she filed against Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter. TYLER ESTEP / TYLER.ESTEP@AJC.COM
Atlanta resident Nancie Turner, center, speaks Tuesday outside the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center about the ethics complaint she filed against Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter. TYLER ESTEP / TYLER.ESTEP@AJC.COM

Conrad Gelot does not want Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter to resign or otherwise be forced out of office.

“He is not a racist,” Gelot, who is black, said Tuesday afternoon in front of Hunter, his fellow commissioners and dozens of sign-carrying protesters. “I have no problem calling him a friend.”

The comments from Gelot — who said he knows Hunter from his own time as a Gwinnett County employee — were the first and only expression of support for the commissioner on Tuesday, the third volatile board meeting that has been held since The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first published the Facebook post in which Hunter, who is white, called civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis a "racist pig."

Gelot's words were also the only bright spot in another tumultuous day for Hunter — one that included more talk of the ethics complaint filed against him and two more hours of protesters angrily calling for him to resign.

Before the board’s 2 p.m. meeting, two attorneys and a woman named Nancie Turner held a press conference to address the ethics complaint they filed Monday against Hunter, claiming his Facebook posts violated three portions of the county’s ethics ordinance. One of those sections says employees and officials should “never engage in conduct which is unbecoming to a member or which constitutes a breach of public trust.”

The complaint is the first one received by the county since it adopted its current ethics ordinance in 2011 and, if successful, could lead to possible penalties ranging from written reprimand to removal from office. Seth Weathers, a spokesman for Hunter, has laughed off the suit. On Monday, he asked if "the filing attorneys really passed the bar."

Attorneys Helen Kim Ho and Christine Koehler said Tuesday that their complaint "is not a joke." They hope it will lead to Hunter's ouster.

“This isn’t just about the one statement he made, but rather the entire display of divisiveness and hatefulness his Facebook page displays,” Turner, on whose behalf the complaint was filed, said. Turner lives in Atlanta but it’s not believed to be necessary for someone who files an ethics complaint to be a resident of Gwinnett County.

Woman who filed Gwinnett ethics complaint speaks

Once the commission meeting started, the board quickly approved or renewed nearly $9.5 million in county contracts. The majority of that was more than $4.5 million dedicated to renew a contract for the maintenance of county vehicles and equipment. Other big-dollar contracts included roughly $782,000 for the county’s HVAC maintenance, installation and replacement needs; nearly $700,000 for road repair and patching; and $500,000 for office supplies.

As Hunter attempted to speak on another issue later in the meeting, protesters gathered in the audience repeatedly feigned loud coughing fits. Chairman Charlotte Nash had to ask them to stop at least four times.

“Come on now, please,” Nash said. “We have business that needs to be conducted.”

Protesters, many of which were spurred into action by the Gwinnett County Democratic Party, then took turns speaking during the meeting’s public comment section. All told, they spoke for about two hours.

They carried signs with messages like “still we rise” and “ignorance has no place in politics.”

“I don’t understand why you can’t see a person’s heart and mind, and not the color of their skin, or their religion, or their politics,” Snellville resident Gail Webb said. “You must resign.”

Hunter, a Republican, has apologized for his "choice of words" in the Lewis post and agreed to attend the Gwinnett NAACP's meeting on Valentine's Day, but has repeatedly said he won't resign.

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