Gwinnett: Temperatures rise at Buford schools meeting

Several hundred people packed the Buford City Schools meeting chambers Monday to hear what the board had to say after a lawsuit exposed taped conversations, allegedly of the school superintendent using a racial epithet repeatedly.

About a dozen of those attending wore yellow T shirts with #IStandWithMary, referencing Mary Ingram, the former African-American employee whose lawsuit filings included a copy of the recordings. Her attorney later identified Phillip Beard, the chairman of the school board and the chairman of the city commission, as a second person whose voice can be heard on the tapes.

Beard, asked by parent Erica Gwyn if the second voice was his, stammered through an answer, saying he didn’t know. He contended the tape was doctored in some fashion.

“I don’t know if that was me,” he said. “It wasn’t revealed initially that I was on the recording. If I’m guilty, I’m guilty, and it will come out.”

Another speaker said he believed the voice was Beard’s.

“I see you two driving around in his truck together every day,” the man said. “You had to be comfortable with each other to spend that amount of time together. He felt comfortable enough to say that disgusting word in your presence five times.”

Mary Ingram (right) and her daughter Christy Joiner attend the Buford Board of Education meeting Monday in Buford. It is the first meeting since Superintendent Geye Hamby resigned amid allegations, brought out by Ingram’s lawsuit, that he used racial slurs to refer to black temporary construction workers and threatened violence against them. Curtis Compton/

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Superintendent Geye Hamby, 49, wrote a letter of resignation late last week after the race-discrimination suit and recordings roiled the bucolic town of 14,000 on the outer reaches of Atlanta's exurbs. It's a former stop on the rail line to the Carolinas that grew up after the Civil War and prospered through the Depression, thanks to its saddle and and leather works. In recent years, the little downtown of one and two-story brick building has filled back up with restaurants and boutiques and even some new construction.

The first order of business in the overstuffed room, where the air temperature rose to the level of the emotions on display, was to accept Hamby’s resignation.

Ingram’s daughter, Christy Joiner, said the grandmother is teaching Joiner’s children a history lesson about standing up for what is right.

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