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Council members are quiet on call for mayor to resign

In the wake of a call for the resignation of Thomson's mayor, members of the city council have been muted in their criticism of Kenneth Usry.

"I think he handled the situation the best he could under the circumstances," Councilman Clifford "Bud" Lunceford said a few days after police sound and video footage showed the mayor taking public works supervisor Scott Huff from a storm-damage site as police were trying to determine whether Huff was drunk. Huff had driven a city vehicle to the area.

The mayor has said he was acting in the interest of safety -- Huff's in addition to that of others at the scene.

Not everyone is buying that argument. A group of more than 100 people gathered outside city hall last week to call for the mayor's resignation. The group, led by the Rev. Fred Favors, also urged the council to determine whether the 10-day suspension given Huff was consistent with disciplinary actions against other city employees.

"That's the part that I want to look at -- to see if we are consistent in what we're doing," said the Rev. John Smalley, who represents District C2 on the council.

But Smalley did not support the call for the mayor's resignation.

"What purpose would that serve?" Smalley asked, noting that a mayoral election is on the November ballot.

He has suggested that the council view the video together and then discuss the incident. He said Friday that he thought other members of the council were open to that.

Councilman Alton Belton, who was in Savannah, Ga., for a conference when news stories of the incident broke, said he has not seen the video and had no comment on the call for the mayor to resign.

On the issue of disciplinary consistency, he said, "Everything's worth looking into."

Councilman Jaye Jones, like Lunsford, said earlier that he believed the mayor did what he thought was best at the time.

Councilwoman Bernice Brown has refused to comment on the incident.

The crowd that gathered at city hall June 29 was almost entirely black. Favors said that was because the news conference was called hastily and there was not enough time to get word to a broader section of the community. He said the issue is not racial.

"I don't think it's racial," Smalley agreed.

However, he said, "people on our side of the street see things differently from people on the other side of the street. We have a history.

"People who work for the city think that some people get special privileges."

The council held a called closed-door meeting Tuesday to discuss personnel issues, but no action was announced after the meeting. It was not known what specific issues were discussed,

Web posted on Thursday, July 07, 2011

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