[Editor’s note: Commissioner Steve Brown’s statement regarding the district voting lawsuit settlement is reproduced below as a letter to the editor.]
I am the only commissioner who has been elected at-large and district, elected both ways.
I went to conservative groups and got their support for NAACP President, AME pastor and Democrat Ed Johnson against the Republican incumbent in Fayetteville on his original election for council.
I am a former Fayette County NAACP member.
The lawsuit initiated by the NAACP was predicated on a lie to begin with, that no African American had or could be elected to countywide office. Magistrate Judge Charles Floyd, my neighbor, served two terms and would have served more had he not died.
White citizens, like myself, liked Judge Floyd and white citizens voted for Judge Floyd who never had a white challenger for his judicial position.
Now the NAACP is going to sign a binding settlement agreement that claims “… there was no intentional racial discrimination in the County’s use of and defense of its at-large districting system …” (Section 3), dispelling the very foundation of the plaintiffs’ case.
One might believe from the statement in section three there existed some form of unintentional racial discrimination, which is incorrect. Likewise, Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr., an Article III federal judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, aptly stated in his initial summary ruling that, “The Court agrees with the County Defendants that in contrast to many plaintiffs, [NAACP] Plaintiffs have not proffered evidence relating specifically to discrimination in Fayette County.”
Allow me to go further, the evidence is incontrovertible in favor of the county which probably explains why the NAACP was willing to take the new district voting maps that do not even meet the minimum criteria of the Voting Rights Act as well as having to swallow a major portion of their own legal fees.
I voice great concern over Judge Batten’s actions during these legal proceedings. When attorneys express fear of moving forward in defense of the citizens in this county not because our case lacks merit, but because of what the judge will presumably do, the system has failed us. The mediation process was more like a sledgehammer than a thoughtful intervention. This only encourages disrespect for the rule of law.
With sincerity to Judge Batten, you owe attorney Wayne Kendall, former attorney for the plaintiffs, an apology and a refund of his $5,000 fine. The infamous Lindsey district maps were a direct and purposeful manipulation of the federal court. I was in the executive session when the county attorney introduced the scheme which I rebuffed and I dispatched correspondence to the Georgia Attorney General the following morning. I have testified to this under oath.
According to a very recent Pew Poll Study (http://www.people-press.org/2015/11/23/beyond-distrust-how-americans-view-their-government/), only a miniscule 19 percent of Americans say they can trust the federal government always or most of the time, among the lowest levels in the past half-century. Among both Democrats and Republicans, large majorities say they can seldom, if ever, trust the federal government (89 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of Democrats).
No one should be wondering why anti-establishment candidates are popular at the federal level.
Congratulations go to Mayor Edward Johnson of Fayetteville, the first black mayor of the city, elected at-large in a city where only 33.9 percent of the population is black. This is Mayor Johnson’s second at-large election victory in a city where streets are named after Confederate heroes. According to Judge Batten’s previous ruling, these election results were deemed impossible, based on what many of us believe to be faulty logic.
Congratulations to new Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach, a diehard conservative Republican who had previously served on the Chatham County Board of Commissioners. Congratulations also to new councilmen Bill Durrence and Brian Foster, all older white males, who won elected office in a city that is 55 percent black. It appears what the judge found impossible is happening all over the state.
Many citizens, both black and white, have expressed their dismay over the NAACP filing this lawsuit. It has been a means of circumventing a strong Republican core and elevating Democrat Party politics. It’s been divisive and it has ended with admissions that there really was no racism.
As to why the Board of Commissioners pursued this lawsuit with a majority of citizens backing the effort, costing around 800,000 taxpayer dollars, only to drop it at the moment the trial was about to begin, I am in shock right along with you. Those specific commissioners will have to explain their rationale to the voters in this 2016 election year.
The plaintiffs could have had a similar set of settlement districts at the onset of this lawsuit in 2012. The hubris has resulted in a tremendous amount of wasted money and effort.
This is why I despise politics.
Fayette County Commission, District 3
Peachtree City, Ga.