A squabble at a council meeting in a Georgia city has caught the attention of the NAACP after a white councilman told his black counterpart that he should be working in a cotton field.
The exchange took place in a recent Warner Robins City Council meeting near Macon, Georgia, said Larry Holmes, president of the NAACP in Houston County.
"They need to learn to respect each other, and they need to stop all the name calling," Holmes said.
"Ever since this new council was elected, there has been different problems. For one thing, they just can't seem to function there in a more pleasant and peaceful manner."
The controversial "cotton field" exchange happened at the meeting at the Warner Robins City Council earlier in October, said CNN affiliate WMAZ-TV in Macon.
The heated argument captured on tape was between council members John Williams, who is white, and Daron Lee, who is black, the affiliate reported.
During the exchange, Lee said he was tired of being interrupted and was upset about how he was treated at an earlier meeting.
"I was disrespected last Monday. I'm getting about tired of you all, talking to me any kind of way. I'm not working in a cotton field," Lee said.
Williams paused for a second and then replied, "You should be."
Lee then walked out of the meeting but later returned, the TV station reported.
The racial talk continued during the public comment period of the meeting. One resident suggested that the City Council should get diversity training.
Lee told the affiliate later it was not the first time that he has heard racially insensitive remarks at a meeting.
"He smiles in your face and makes racial remarks," Lee said. "I am pretty much used to it by now. I had it last meeting. It is a poor representation of the council."
Williams explained his remarks to the affiliate.
"I worked in the cotton field," Williams said. "I drove a cotton basket many miles. It is not a racial remark at all. [Lee] makes everything racial."
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has written a letter to the City Council that Williams should resign, Holmes said.
"We're just saying if they can't work together that maybe someone needs to resign," Holmes said.
Warner Robins Councilman John Williams: Lee Belongs in 'Cotton Field'
Warner Robins City Council member Daron Lee says remarks made by other council members turned racial for the second meeting in a row.
Lee says Tom Simms Jr. referred to him as "boy" during a closed meeting two weeks ago.
Monday night, council member John Williams said Lee should be working in a cotton field.
The exchange happened during a motion by Daron Lee. He wanted to clarify a contract for an investigation by former city clerk Stan Martin into city business.
Lee and three other council members voted for Martin to continue the inquiry, but John Williams, Mayor Chuck Shaheen and Tom Simms Jr. oppose his hiring.
The disagreement prompted Williams to interrupt Lee.
Lee stopped Williams, saying, "I was disrespected last Monday. I'm getting about tired of you all, talking to me any kind of way. I'm not working in a cotton field."
Williams replied, "You should be."
Lee said, "Oh, I should be? OK."
Mayor Chuck Shaheen banged his gavel to end the disagreement. Then, Lee walked out. He returned a few minutes later.
The tension spilled over to comments from the audience. Warner Robins resident Louise McBride said, "A diversity class should be required for council members. "
Another resident, Mike McGraw, blamed Lee for the problem. He said, "Mr. Lee, you're setting this country, I mean city, back."
Lee later referred to Tom Simms Jr. allegedly calling him "boy" two weeks ago and Williams' words, during his closing comments of the meeting.
Lee said, "No white man can speak for a black man. 'Boy' may not mean may not carry that much weight with you, but it's the same weight carried for many years for a black man."
He believes his disagreements on city issues, such as hiring Martin to perform an internal investigation, prompted Simms' and Williams' comments. Referring to Williams, Lee said, "He smiles in your face, and then makes racial remarks. I had it last council meeting and again tonight. It's a poor representation of the council and International City."
Williams said his remark wasn't racial. He said, "Absolutely not, I worked in a cotton field. I drug a basket many a mile. It's not a racial remark at all."
Lee said Mayor Chuck Shaheen should have stepped-in both times, and made it clear that those type of comments would not be allowed.
When asked about Williams' comment after the meeting, Shaheen said, "I didn't hear it." He did not want to talk on camera, but said the discord between the mayor and council "is what it is."
The group agreed on the location for a new law enforcement center, but not on who will be in charge of the plans.
Shaheen authorized the Warner Robins Building Authority to start looking at options, a few weeks ago. The majority of council members said they didn't know that, until they found out through news reports.
Two of the five positions on the Building Authority were up for re-election. So, council voted to appoint two new members.
They replaced former city council member Bill Douglas and former mayor John Havrilla, with current council members Paul Shealy and Daron Lee.
Williams, who voted against the move, called it a power play by the "famous four". He was referring to Daron Lee, Bob Wilbanks, Mike Daley and Paul Shealy. Those four council members often vote the same way on city issues.
Williams said, "It's an effort to further take control of city government, take it out of the hands of the mayor."
Wilbanks refuted that statement, saying, "The council didn't know the Building Authority was working on a law enforcement center. We caught that on the news."
The group also could not agree on the contract for the architect and builder, for the law enforcement center. Wilbanks said there's still a valid contract with JMA and ICB, two local firms.
Williams and Shaheen said they want to do away with those contracts and "start from scratch." They want to re-bid the project.
Shaheen said the city has paid about $150,000 to JMA, for their services on the project since 2008.
Williams has been in the headlines all year. Last month, a tenant accused him of pointing a gun at him and threatening him.
Don't read the comments at either source.