ATLANTA, Ga. - A back-and-forth war of words has been taking place Friday between the mayor of Atlanta and an embattled Gwinnett County Commissioner.
Commissioner Tommy Hunter took heat last month for calling Rep. John Lewis “racist pig” on Facebook. He has since apologized amid protests and calls for his resignation from his constituents.
Weeks later, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has stepped in with a public letter, voicing concerns about the commissioner to his own boss. Hunter is a vice president for the company United Consulting, which on its own website, claims it is a contractor for Atlanta's Watershed department.
Mayor Reed's letter to the company's CEO reads:
Dear Mr. Abree,
It has come to my attention that Tommy Hunter, the Gwinnett County Commissioner who recently called Congressman John Lewis "a racist pig," is an employee of your firm, United Consulting.
As you know, the City of Atlanta takes extraordinary pride in its history as the cradle of the civil rights movement in America. We are famously called "The City Too Busy to Hate" because of our tradition of inclusion and our embrace of diversity.
Much of Atlanta's international reputation as a bastion of individual freedom was built upon the struggles of civil-rights heroes such as Ambassador Andrew Young, Reverend Joseph Lowery, C.T. Vivian, Mrs. Juanita Abernathy and Xernona Clayton, all of whom worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis.
As you may also know, the City of Atlanta is a client of United Consulting. As Mayor, I am writing personally to let you know that the City of Atlanta finds Mr. Hunter's toxic remark to be insulting, reprehensible and unacceptable to this administration.
Please let me know by close of business Monday, February 27th how you plan to resolve this matter.
Mayor of Atlanta
"Very scary statement for an elected official to make," said spokesperson Seth Weathers, who is speaking for Hunter.
Mayor Reed's letter does not call for Hunter to be fired, but Weathers argues the intent was there.
"And he's putting out threatening letters," said Weathers. "That's a blueprint to corruption."
Weathers also questions the timing of the letter.
He released the following statement:
“I know Kasim Reed would love to divert attention away from himself and his corruption scandal in the city of Atlanta,” Weathers wrote in a text message. “Unfortunately, this will probably be added to the growing stack of files the FBI is reviewing in their investigation against his corrupt administration. I’m curious if this threatening letter is a blueprint for the shakedown tactics he used as Mayor to get his friends lucrative city contracts?”
"Didn't release it until today, the very week his City Hall is under a massive cloud of corruption, was raided by feds," said Weathers.
A spokesperson for Mayor Reed's office sent FOX 5 News a statement clarifying and reaffirming the statement:
United Consulting tells FOX 5, a response was sent to the Mayor's Office and sent the station a copy of the letter. It states:
“We stand by the letter we sent to United Consulting, and look forward to receiving an answer from their CEO Reza Abree.
As a client of United Consulting, the City of Atlanta was disappointed to learn that Tommy Hunter, a top executive of the company, publicly and viciously attacked a civil rights leader who has put his life on the line to protect the rights of all people. His toxic comment was insulting and reprehensible, and we are entirely within our rights to communicate our dissatisfaction.
Tommy Hunter continues to hide from the consequences of his actions. He ran from a public meeting, has stated that he will not attend public meetings for the foreseeable future, and hid behind a spokesperson as he spewed more insults. Only a person who lacks a moral compass would describe a letter condemning racist comments as a 'mob style tactic,' which suggests that the spokesperson holds the same views as Hunter.
Finally, you should not throw stones when you live in a glass house. Hunter is familiar with allegations of corruption in his home county’s government, and should know all too well how it feels to be linked with a matter that you were not aware of nor involved in.”
United Consulting tells FOX 5, a response was sent to the Mayor's Office and sent the station a copy of the letter. It states, in part:
Once United Consulting became aware of Mr. Hunter's comments on his private Facebook page, our company took disciplinary action against him. Mr. Hunter was disciplined as any other employee with the company would be disciplined for such a transgression.
As I stated at the time in our company's response when the issue arose and in my correspondence to Congressman Lewis apologizing for Mr. Hunter's comments that I and United Consulting find the comments Mr. Hunter posted to be abhorrent and have no place in civilized debate.