Councilman defends city manager in shouting match after Georgia Transparency asks three times why she’s still employed
Published 8:28 pm Tuesday, June 13, 2023
At least one LaGrange City Council member appears to be fed up with the actions of Russell Pickron, the owner of the Georgia Transparency social media pages. As is the chair of the Troup County Democratic Party.
After Pickron spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting, repeatedly asking why City Manager Meg Kelsey was still employed and alleging — without providing proof — that money was missing, Councilmember Mark Mitchell came to Kelsey’s defense.
It’s not the first time Pickron has spoken at a council meeting, nor is it the first time he asked if someone should remain employed. Pickron, a self-proclaimed first amendment auditor, has become known for filing open record requests throughout government entities in Troup County and posting those documents and videos to his social media channels.
On Tuesday, during a wide-ranging public comment that ranged from bonds, to Remington, to investigations into the police department, Pickron asked three times why Kelsey was still employed.
When Pickron was finished speaking, Mitchell told him the council is in complete support of Kelsey.
“I want you to understand something — this panel right here hires and fires that lady right there,” Mitchell said, pointing to Kelsey. “This panel right here backs up Mrs. Kelsey and her work at the city of LaGrange.”
Pickron then started to speak, though it was unclear what he was trying to say as what Mitchell was saying drowned it out.
“This is my chance to speak. Let me speak. You asked a question, and I answered your question,” Mitchell interrupted. “This panel hires and fires her. If you want to fire her, then you run and come sit in this seat.”
That started a back and forth with each man talking louder.
“Maybe you need a new council,” Pickron said.
“Maybe you need to go run and sit in this seat,” Mitchell said.
“Maybe I will,” Pickron said.
“I’ve been watching you badger her and all the other people in this city,” Mitchell said.
“This is freedom of speech,” Pickron said.
At that point, Mitchell raised his voice higher, very loudly telling Pickron “this is my time to speak!”
Mayor Willie Edmondson spoke up at that point, asking that they respect one another and reminding them that there were children in the audience. He then generally referenced some of the allegations Pickron has made on his Facebook page.
“The council has found no findings where we should get rid of Mrs. Kelsey,” Edmondson said to Pickron. “Most of the things that were talked about were before she became city manager, before I became the mayor and even before the past mayor that just went out. Some of the things you are talking about were a long time ago.”
Edmondson said the council and mayor have made a pledge to move forward and not dwell on anything in the past.
“OK, so LaGrange will just continue to go broke,” Pickron said.
Edmondson responded that things are going very well.
Councilman Nathan Gaskin then spoke up, and as part of his comments, noted that Kelsey was “as sharp as a tack.”
“That is why we are able to identify, correct and rectify anything that happens in this city,” Gaskin said.
Kevin Littlefield, chair of the Troup County Democratic Party, then spoke to the council, focusing his attention on Pickron.
“This city has become a circus due to the unprofessional and incompetent quote reporting of Georgia Transparency. And it has got to stop,” Littlefield said. “… I have more issues with the state government, the local government, the county government, the national government than anybody, so if I’m coming here telling you that the city employees are feeling like they are being intimidated and bullied, it’s pretty serious because you all know me. And you know I have absolutely no problem coming up here and saying anything about the city. But this is ridiculous.”
Littlefield later said the council should consider having more police officers at meetings, who could “throw Mr. Pickron out when he is being disorderly.”
“That’s what I would like to see. But rest assured you will not have any argument from the Troup County Democratic Party if you do,” Littlefield said. “Gentlemen, we have to do something. Something has to be done. This city has to get back to the business that the people of LaGrange actually care about, like their power bill.”