Gwinnett County commissioners usually do not respond to people who address them at commission meetings, but Commissioner Tommy Hunter broke with that tradition Tuesday and criticized a state legislator who had criticized him during her remarks to the board.
State Rep. Donna McLeod, D-Lawrenceville, stood before the board at its business meeting Tuesday and took the opportunity to address Hunter over, among other things, a $5 million federal lawsuit he has filed against his fellow commissioners over a written reprimand issued against him in 2017 for calling U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig.”
After she finished speaking and started to turn and walk back to her seat, Hunter spoke out against her.
“You need to act like a representative, ma’am,” Hunter said.
Hunter has at times been under fire since his current term began in January 2017. A couple of weeks after the term began, Hunter made the remark about Lewis on Facebook, which prompted other Facebook posts of his, includes ones that referred to Democrats as “demonrats” and “libtards.”
Months of protests followed at commission meetings and an ethic panel was assembled to hear a complaint filed against Hunter by an Atlanta woman. The panel recommended the Board of Commissioners issue a written reprimand, which was issued and then published in the Daily Post.
Earlier this year, Hunter — who has been challenging the legality of the county’s ethics process — filed a federal lawsuit in which he claimed his colleagues violated his first amendment rights by issuing the reprimand. He is seeking $5 million.
When residents protested him in 2017, Hunter did not respond to their comments and eventually began leaving commission meetings when public comment began and was not present to hear the comments people were making.
“Apparently, I’m the only person who has ever gotten him to react (verbally),” McLeod said.
McLeod also brought up messages she said constituents forwarded to her. The messages contained statements Hunter allegedly made to the constituents.
McLeod said the alleged comments showed a disregard for constituents.
“This is the attitude you have as a man who is representing the people of this great county and you think that you have the right to sue us for $5 million?,” McLeod told Hunter during the commission meeting.
“You are not getting any retirement from us.”
Hunter’s response to McLeod prompted an intercession from commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, who immediately told him “let’s not engage here.”
Meanwhile, McLeod said Hunter’s response broke established commission meeting protocol for public comment periods.
“He’s already proven that he’s not a leader and he’s not a person who is really here to execute representative democracy and now he’s proven that he doesn’t even know how to follow his own rules,” she said.