CAMILLA — Mayor Rufus Davis and Camilla City Councilwoman-elect Venterra Pollard have threatened to sit out future City Council meetings to draw attention to what they contend is “widespread discriminatory and segregationist practices; a new city charter; and the passive representation of certain officials, who are not serving their constituents.”
The City Council adopted the amended city charter Monday evening, which, according to a news release from Davis’ office, will “vest very strong, unprecedented powers in the city manager, which takes away from the already limited powers of the mayor and the City Council. The new charter will allow the city manager, among other things, to appoint all members to all of the city’s boards, all commissions, all committees, chairs, officers and the city attorney,” Davis wrote in a release he sent to media.
Pollard and Davis said the new charter would further minimize the power of the mayor and the council.
The latest dust-up between Davis and current City Manager Bennett Adams has been simmering since Davis was elected two years ago. Three months after the mayor was sworn in, several concerned citizens failed in an attempt to recall four of six members of the City Council.
According to Davis’ office, Camilla has a 70 percent African American population, which has not been represented “under the watch of the current city manager.”
“Let me just start by saying that one of the problems with his (Davis’) press release is a lot of his information is not correct,” Adams said. “And it’s not correct because he doesn’t come to the committee meetings, which are really work sessions. He’s been the mayor for two years, and he’s been to probably just five of he committee meetings in that period. That’s when the council discusses issues that we sometimes know we have to work them out before we vote on them.
“My job, or what I am tasked to do, won’t change in the new charter versus the old charter. Mayor Davis is an adult, and he can choose not to attend (meetings), but in order for government to work, everybody needs to be at the table.”
In addition to the amended city charter, Davis listed seven other grievances in his news release. Adams addressed each issue:
— African Americans cannot be buried next to whites in the segregated city-owned cemetery.
“I’ve been here 6 1/2 years, and I haven’t had an African American come in here and try to buy a plot,” Adams said. “If somebody walks in here and has $500 to buy a cemetery plot, we’re going to sell it to them no matter what color they are.”
— All City Hall employees are white except three.
“That’s not correct,” Adams said. “There are seven out of 22.”
— Over 97 percent of all African Americans who apply for jobs inside City Hall are rejected.
“That’s false,” Adams said. “I have the authority as city manager to hire and fire, but we delegate that authority to our department heads.”
— There are no African-American police officers.
“That’s true, and I’d love to have three or four, but that is an issue everywhere,” Adams said.
— Ninety-nine percent of all white students attend the All-white private school (Westwood Schools).
“That’s a personal choice,” Adams said. “I don’t know the numbers, but we can’t tell parents where to send their kids to school.”
— Ninety-nine percent of all African American students attend the public schools.
“Again, that’s a personal choice,” Adams said.
— The city is hyper-gerrymandered.
“Every census, every city redistricts,” Adams said. “Our regional commission came up with a couple of options to get the mix we needed to be in compliance. The council approved the most logical plan, which had the most support. The Justice Department approved our districts. If he (Davis) thinks otherwise, that’s his right. But we did everything we were supposed to do, and the Justice Department agreed.”
Adams, drawing a comparison to outgoing Dougherty County Manager Richard Crowdis, said he’s been trying to retire since June.
“I’ve tried to retire three times. The first time was in June, the second was on Dec. 29, and they are probably going to extend my contract to Jan. 26 until the new city manager gets here,” Adams said.
Adams added that the city is holding a called meeting at 9 a.m. on Monday to name a new city manager. There is no word if Davis will show up. Davis has not returned calls seeking comment.