LaFayette council upset over Hunter letter

Published 7:30 am Saturday, May 29, 2021

The rest of the LaFayette City Council, as well as Mayor Kenneth Vines, took offense to a letter Councilmember Shannon Hunter recently sent to constituents.

The letter was three pages, detailing things that have happened on council the last six months, and was followed by a two-page survey. Hunter posted a video of the meeting on his YouTube page, which is where The Valley Times-News saw the meeting.

“I have a lot of issues here with this paper,” council member Terry Mangram said. “Personally, I think it is a slap in the face. Seemingly, you touched on a few people who are only doing their jobs, as far as what is to be done. Personally, I don’t think that you are letting things take their course. You are trying to push things awfully fast here to try to make us do things.”

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In the letter, which was received by The Valley Times-News, Hunter discussed that the city’s budget for the current year is not complete, despite the fact that the fiscal year ends in September. Hunter also alleged that many of the city’s boards and commissions had not met for years and were not filled with the necessary amount of members.

“We’ve discussed the budget, as far as working on the budget and finalizing the budget, and moving on to looking at any rate increases that we may have,” Mangram said, “The reason that I am taking offense to this is because I am the chairperson. I sat here on the 26th of April and went over this for the second time in the meeting and said to you that we were going to deal with the budget and move on to any rate increases that we may have or look at. You come out with stuff like this, and it’s like we’re not doing anything. I don’t know how you can sit here or go home thinking that we’re coming here and not doing anything. The whole paper is just a mess to me. You went after the police chief, the attorney and me. We’ve got to work together here, and you seem to have your own agenda, and it doesn’t have any regard to anyone else.”

Hunter said he sent the letter to members of District B who have responded to survey questions in the past, as well as other citizens in LaFayette who want council packets and agendas.

“I haven’t been trying to hide it from you. These are concerns that I have,” Hunter said. “If you just want to take offense to that and ignore them, then that’s your business.”

At a February council meeting, Hunter proposed a garbage collection fee increase, which he said would balance the Sanitation Department’s budget this year. The motion died without a second.

“I thought that it was something that was needed,” Hunter said on Monday. “I was working with the financial figures that the clerk provided us, and it appeared to me that it would be logical to make that increase at the time… we could balance the budget in that department this year and have a surplus in future years to make payments on a limb truck.”

Councilmember Toney B. Thomas, who served in the previous administration, also took offense to the letter.

“Not only did you throw this administration under the bus, you threw the previous administration under the bus,” Thomas said. “I feel that we did a decent job, and I know that in this administration we are making some improvements in areas. Be a man. If there’s something that you want me to know or want someone else to know, don’t run off to your email and put it on there. Come talk to me. If you have a problem with the chief, go talk to him.”

Ellis said it is fine to inform the district and city of what is going on in the council meetings, but he took offense to the individuals singled out in the letter.

“The name throwing and slandering people isn’t going to work. We try to work in unison,” Ellis said. “We try to get everyone to work together. This type of stuff is going to pull us further apart. I agree with a lot of stuff that you have said, but all the negative stuff, talking about negligence … we’re supposed to be a team. You could talk to anyone at any time about anything. I know I’ll listen to you, but this is bad. We’re trying to work together and this isn’t helping the cause.”

The letter includes criticism for police chief George Rampey, as well as Vines.

“With regard to safety issues like speeding, illegal and unsafe parking, etc.: in spite of frequent complaints by council members and the fact that some 96 percent of District B households want these laws enforced, Police Chief George Rampey (who agrees that our downtown traffic scares off visitors) doesn’t enforce the laws, and the Mayor is either unwilling or unable to make the Chief do his job,” the letter reads.

Councilmember Tammie B. Williams was upset that Rampey was singled out in the letter, and said she thought the letter was racist.

“When you get ready to bash the police chief because the mayor can’t make him do his job, you can’t make anyone do their job except you. Everyone in here is grown,” Williams said. “We’re not in the Jim Crow era. We don’t have any slaves. I am offended that you would even say some mess like that because that is a grown man. If you have a problem with Chief Rampey, go talk to Chief Rampey. Every time you email something, you mention Chief Rampey. I get so sick and tired of you dogging Chief Rampey … I think you’re a racist… I have never thought that of you, but now, it [the letter] makes me feel that way.”

Vines also took offense to the letter, specifically to the quote saying “he is either unwilling or unable to make the chief do his job.”

“The unwilling and make to me, that’s old language. It’s something that was used in the old days,” Vines said. “I didn’t take this email too kindly. Whether it’s Chief Ramey or Chief [James] Doody, everything that I ask those guys to do, it’s been done. If it’s not going to be done, then we have procedures to get it done. There are procedures that you have to follow. I’m not the type of mayor that is going to bash the last administration.”

After the 22-minute conversation, the council moved on to discuss other topics.