Savannah mayor, alderwoman share heated exchange over ethics violation

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Nearly a month after a board ruled Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter in violation of Savannah’s ethics ordinance, the topic remains a point of contention among council members.

During Thursday’s regular meeting of the Savannah City Council, an item on the approval of a resolution reprimanding the at-large alderwoman was brought up for discussion.

Back in August, council members Detric Leggett, Kurtis Purtee, Nick Palumbo and Linda Wilder-Bryan filed a complaint against Gibson-Carter alleging she misled the public intentionally and physically threatened other alderpersons.

The city council has yet to act on the board’s recommendation to publicly censure the alderwoman for the acts mentioned in the complaint.

“I was under the impression that after the ethics hearing, we were able to agree to disagree. Today shows us that we can’t,” said Wilder-Bryan, who represents District 3.

Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Estella Edwards Shabazz, of District 5, said it is time to put the item to rest with or without a resolution, and Post 2 At-Large Alderwoman Alicia Miller Blakely made a motion to not approve the resolution.

Ultimately, Mayor Van Johnson said that because the resolution itself was not attached to the agenda, the item would be continued. However, the discussion didn’t end there.

“If what you said during the ethics hearing, which was you did not support council members filing complaints on each other, why are we here?” asked Gibson-Carter of the mayor.

The two also argued about the censure of Tony Thomas. Gibson-Carter brought up a statement made by Johnson that council members shouldn’t be the moral compass for conduct — and the mayor clarified that he did, in fact, vote to censure Thomas.

“What is it about me, an African American, Black woman that you hate so much, that you would allow these behaviors to exist in this city on this platform?” the alderwoman asked. “And you know what? We’re not going to rest, and we’re not going to put it to bed, as long as you continue to use your power and your authority as a whipping post for those who you don’t agree with when all we are doing is simply doing is what we were sent here to city hall to do.”

Johnson took issue with comments made by Gibson-Carter at an anti-human trafficking rally in August in which she claimed “there are pedophiles under this gold dome,” referring to Savannah City Hall. The mayor said he heard from employees who were upset by the statement she made.

“That was the unfortunate part, for me, to look in these folks eyes every day and know that a member of the council made that type of unfounded allegation about the integrity of people who work here every single day,” Johnson said.

He added that he made a recommendation for the alderwoman and the other council members involved to meet for mediation, a recommendation to which he says Gibson-Carter “never even bothered to respond.”

“It’s alright for us to disagree, all the time, and passionately disagree, but it’s our behavior — in that, I can disagree with you and still respect you, I can disagree with you and not call you names, I can disagree with you and not go on social media and try and impugn your character — and that’s what this is about,” Johnson said.

The next regular council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 22, at 2 p.m.

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