LaFayette council discusses MOU, ask mayor to rescind order

Published 9:30 am Thursday, February 15, 2024

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At Monday’s city council meeting, the LaFayette council voted to request that Mayor Kenneth Vines rescind the memorandum of understanding that he signed with the Chambers County School Board in October. 

The MOU was an agreement between the two entities stating that the LaFayette Police Department would enforce the rules of conduct outlined by the school board during board meetings. 

Specifically, the MOU stated that protestors would be forced to leave their signs outside of the room and be removed if they disrupted the meeting by chanting or sitting on the floor. 

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Dr. Travis “Tee” Smith, the founder of Unite, who was one of the protestors who addressed the council, said the MOU was unconstitutional because people have the right to peaceful protest using signs. 

“Since when did peaceful protests become unconstitutional?” Smith said. “Since when did having a peaceful seat-in require that concerned citizens be removed from public spaces?”

The MOU was signed the day before the October school board meeting, restricting protestors who did not meet those guidelines to the lawn in front of the building. Protestors from the community had attended and spoken at several board meetings after District Judge Keith Watkins’ order approved the Valley site for the new high school.

At the following meeting in November, two protestors — Tytianna Smith and Yolanda Ratchford — were arrested for disorderly conduct for disrupting a lawful meeting.

Williams also said the LaFayette City Council tried to meet with Superintendent Casey Chambley to discuss the purchase of the old J.P. Powell Middle School building but that he refused. 

He asked the council for an explanation of why the MOU was signed and for it to be rescinded. 

City Attorney Joseph “Mac” Tucker, who also signed the MOU, advised the council not to comment regardless of the accuracy of the statements that had been made because Smith had threatened litigation. 

Tucker also said it is the responsibility of city law enforcement to protect any entity or individual within the police jurisdiction.

“Not one time did we threaten anybody in the board of education,” Williams said. “We quietly sat on the floor. We quietly held our signs up. Now, who did we threaten?”

Councilwoman Tammie Williams addressed the MOU situation, stating that she was one of the protestors and that they were not disrupting the meeting or threatening the board. 

The entire city council voted in favor of requesting that Vines terminate the MOU. Vines himself voted in agreement but did not make any motion to do so. 

The VTN reached out to Vines who referred to the city attorney. Tucker was unclear at this time on what the next steps are with the MOU.