Sparks fly at LaFayette City Council meeting

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 16, 2022

During the LaFayette City Council meeting on Monday, things got tense when Councilmember Tammie Williams brought up an email she said all of the council members had received from Councilmember T. Shannon Hunter. In the email, which was addressed to LaFayette Mayor Kenneth Vines, Hunter said he had walked to Renfroe’s when he saw “many vehicles parked illegally on the Northeast corner of LaFayette St. and 2nd Ave. SW.”

“There was a policeman parked in the parking lot, so I approached him and asked him to ticket the violators, preferably with a warning because it is not only illegal to park on the sidewalk or within 20 ft of a pedestrian crossing, but it is very dangerous to block drivers’ line of sight at that heavily traveled intersection,” he wrote.

According to Hunter, the officer said he would speak to his sergeant. Hunter said he gave the officer his card and asked him to inform him of the outcome.

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At the meeting, Williams read Hunter’s email aloud. She said she wouldn’t read the last paragraph because it wasn’t worth reading.

The last paragraph said, “Will you please do something about this negligence that can have serious, even fatal, consequences? Please don’t refer me to Chief Rampey. It is your job to see to it that he does his job.”

Williams read a selected reading for the councilmembers regarding city protocol:

“When questions about council member[s] arise, they usually involve the desired council members to directly control the function of city employees. It must be remembered that council committees are administrative bodies and have no authority to exercise any executive power over the administrative branch of the local municipal government. This means that the council cannot direct and supervise the work of employees.”

Williams argued that complaints like Hunter’s were bad for business, as the people who would be ticketed are people who live in LaFayette. She explained that it didn’t make financial sense to give them tickets because the city would make little money from it.

“I just don’t think it’s fair that we continue to harass this police department because that’s all it is,” she said.

Williams said she felt sickened by Hunter frequently writing about LaFayette Police Chief George Rampey. She argued that Hunter hadn’t written any emails about the recent water leaks. She said Hunter didn’t respect or like Rampey and was always finding reasons to say negative things about him.

“I’m going to be nice and tell you, don’t come for me today,” she said. “Not today. Not this month. Not this month. This [is] Black History Month. Don’t bring it to me today because it ain’t going to be good coming back.”

Williams brought up a meeting two people had attended, which Hunter had said was supposed to be an open meeting.

“After this council meeting’s over, ya’ll get with the mayor and meet about what you want to meet about,” she said.

She told Hunter that if he wanted to “see” her, he should do so outside.

“I would like to respond,” Hunter said.

“Outside,” Williams said. “Not in here. Not today because it’s not going to be nice.”

Hunter said he’d be at least as nice as Williams.

“What I’m going to say is that I would think that since you’re chair of the Public Safety Committee that safety would be an important matter to you,” he said.

“It is,” she said.

Hunter said the violations he reported make the city much less safe.

“You know what, Mr. Hunter?” Williams said. “Let me tell you something. That Roger’s restaurant been up there 60 years. We have not had one major accident on that road.”

Williams asked Councilmember Michael Ellis, who she said had been a police officer in the city, if he had seen any traffic accidents in that area. Ellis said he couldn’t remember any.

“I remember one,” Hunter said.

Williams asked if it was major.

“No, it wasn’t major,” she said. “We have accidents all over this city. But what you do is you walk around, and you try to see what you can find, and if a dog runs across the street…”

“To make the city better,” Hunter said.

“It’s not going to make the city better,” Williams said. She said people were used to parking at Roger’s the way they park and that Hunter couldn’t make them change.

“What you want to happen is you want the LaFayette Police Department to go in there and ticket these people, harass these white folks, and when they come out, they’re going to say, ‘Chief Rampey and the LaFayette Police Department is doing nothing but harassing them,” Williams said. “And when the business is closed, what’s going to happen? They’re going to close because they ain’t doing nothing but being harassed.”

“That’s your opinion,” Hunter said.

“It is,” Williams said.

“It’s true,” said Councilmember Toney Thomas. “I’ve heard several people talk about that … If you’re going to worry about something, worry about some of these big issues we’ve got, like the dirty water.”

Hunter said he didn’t fix water leaks but that he had brought up using ARPA funds to improve the city’s water infrastructure.

Thomas argued it was Vines’ job to run daily operations.

“And that’s what I said in my email,” Hunter said.

Thomas said Hunter had no right to tell the police officer to give out tickets.

“Any citizen has that right,” Hunter said.

Vines beat his gavel. “Can we move on?” he said.

Hunter, Williams and Thomas kept arguing. Vines beat the gavel again.

“Hey, that’s it,” Vines said.

Williams cited the page of the passage she had read.

“OK mayor, shut me up,” Hunter said.

The council then moved on to a different topic.