Ethics Board member Johnnie McDaniel said the comments by Commissioner Gwen Flowers-Taylor did not reach the level as to be a violation of the county code of ethics. The other two members of the board said the comments were not made in an official capacity as a county commissioner.
“My viewpoint is I don’t see it as an official act,”Jackie Perkins said.
Jesse Bradley quoted one of the comments made during the Facebook discussion as lesson from this: “Debate is good, name calling is cheap. Don’t lose your dignity,”
Bradley said, “I don’t think it was appropriate as chair of the county commission, but she acted in her capacity as an individual. It does not reach the level of a violation.”
McDaniel said, “obviously better judgement could have been used by both people, but we’re here to determine if it rises to the level of a violation,” adding that “the ordinance clearly states it must occur during official actions.”
Flowers-Taylor said the comments were made not as a county commissioner but as an individual, “sitting in my home, on my own device, on my personal account.”
When asked if she had to do it over again, what choice would she make, Flowers-Taylor said. “hindsight is 20/20. Of course I would have chosen different words. I have hormones that raged that night that matched hers,” referring to Connie Pound, who made the initial post and filed the ethics complaint.
“See if you can get a prescription for that,” Bradley said.
At Monday’s hearing, Pound testified that Flowers-Taylor "did not abide the county ethics code, Section 8, when she commented on my Facebook page. She left comments that degraded me, that have not been deleted or apologized for.”
Pound told the board, “it’s my belief we should hold people accountable.”
Both women said they were not Facebook friends, but may have mutual friends, which is how the comment Pound posted may have ended up on Flowers-Taylor’s news feed. According to the print-outs of the comments, they have 24 mutual friends.
When asked if the comment was directed at anyone, Pound said “just to me and what I’d have to do after the election.”
In that initial comment, which along with subsequent posts by Flowers-Taylor, Pound and others, was provided to the board and the county commissioners in their hearing, Pound began it with: “All you Democrats that are rejoicing right now.”
She referred asked them to “let me know how you feel in a few weeks when I start taking some of your hard earned money...going by the first tent I see and getting me a free phone...applying for Gov’t assistance tomorrow.”
The comment also references her plans to “check into sec 8 for my house” as well as “remember what I said my republican friends..STEAK AND LOBSTER as soon as I get my EBT card.”
She concluded the post with “and all of you who say you are proud to have “your” first black president....how’s that “MIXED” president working out for you!”
Flowers-Taylor replied “you are a stupid biatch,” to the initial post and “conservative racist queen” in response to taunts from Pound and encouragement from others in support of Pound, as well as recommendations to send the comments to the paper or share the comments. Her final post was “all yall stupid.”
At Monday’s hearing, Flowers-Taylor questioned the need for the hearing and the motives of her fellow commissioners in deciding to convene the ethics review board, referring to it as “foolishness” and “wasting time on such a trivial matter.”
She said her comment was directed “to an individual I felt was ignorant” and described the posting as “insensitive and racist, just asking for someone to say ‘oh no you didn’t’.”
Flowers-Taylor said her fellow commissioners, who elected her chairman, “had the opportunity to close a rift, which is now slowly being opened wider.” She told the review board, “you don’t have to worry about being re-elected. I hope you’re not pressured to make a decision.”
McDaniel asked “which side has the most pressure?” and told her, “I hope you know pressure doesn’t effect me.”
Flowers-Taylor also asked why she was the only one being questioned. “No one asked Mrs. Pound if she had any regrets.”
Bradley said, “if she was the one charged, we would have done that. We don’t have to rule against her.”
Prior to the decision, McDaniel said, “there are no winners here. No one wins in this situation. We had a job to do. Don’t cheer.”
There was no cheering after the decision, though there was clapping and support when Flowers-Taylor was speaking prior to the decision. Pound and her family quickly left following the decision.
Fortune explained once the decision was rendered the service of the review board was over. This hearing was the first one under the county’s ethics ordinance.
McDaniel suggested changes to some of the subjective language in the ordinance to make it clearer.