LaFayette council upset over school board MOU

Published 11:00 am Thursday, November 9, 2023

The LaFayette City Council discussed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) made between the LaFayette mayor and the Chambers County School District that banned signage — such as protest posters — in the board room.

Council member Tammie Williams, who has been present for many of the protests including the one on Oct. 25, said she was never told of the meeting or the MOU. Williams asked Mayor Kenneth Vines why he didn’t reach out to the council.

“Mayor Pro Tem Tammie Williams and Councilman Tony Thomas was at the meeting. So why [did] no one pick up the phone to call us and ask us what was going on?” Williams asked Vines.

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Council members Terry Mangram and David Ennis each in their turn said they were not aware of the meeting or the agreement.

“I was pissed because if y’all knew you had a meeting with the superintendent on that Tuesday, why were we not notified of it Monday night at the council meeting?” Mangram asked during the meeting.

Council member Toney Thomas said he has been to some of the protests and that they have all been peaceful and respectful.

“I would like to say for the record that I did not know anything, and I disagree with the MOU that was signed,” Thomas said. “I didn’t know anything about it.”

City Attorney Joseph Tucker said his understanding of the school board meeting on Oct. 25 was that the rule was not carried out the way it was supposed to be. When questioned further by the council members, Tucker said the city is being threatened by litigation and recommended not discussing details in open session.

The two groups met on Oct. 24, the day before the school board meeting, to agree on terms for the MOU, which most notably banned signage or placards from the school district board room. The agreement was written up and signed the morning of the meeting and CCSD Board President Jeffery Finch explained the rule to the public at the outset of the meeting.

Superintendent Casey Chambley told the VTN after the meeting that the goal of the MOU was to ensure that the city police department enforced certain rules of the meeting.

Vines referred the council’s questions to Tucker as the city’s legal representative.

“That’s why we have him on board. So anything that that I’m doing not right, I’m depending on him to correct me,” Vines said.

Tucker said the MOU was “about future conduct, not past conduct.” He said the goal was to prevent the protests from escalating and disrupting meetings.

Tucker also said the MOU did not require any action from the city council and that it’s the mayor’s responsibility to dictate the activity of the city employees. He said the document was meant to provide “the clarification of the duties of law enforcement with regards to providing police presence.”

“There are rights on both sides,” Tucker said.

“The mayor can’t tell anybody to violate somebody else’s rights,” Williams said, referring to the MOU which instructed the LaFayette Police Department to keep protesters from bringing in signs.