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Rep. Houston Gaines Seeking State Investigation into ACC Public Safety Oversight Board

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Sidhartha C. Wakade
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File- State Rep. Houston Gaines

State Representative Houston Gaines is requesting the ACC Public Safety Civilian Oversight Board be dissolved and the recruitment process be restarted. The request comes after text messages between Commissioners Tim Denson and Mariah Parker were made public.

Commissioner Mariah Parker's statement:

Many conservatives have opposed the board’s very existence and are eager to undermine attempts to enhance public safety. It was important to all involved that appointees are, at the very least, willing engaging the work with an open mind and a sensitivity to the trauma experienced by community members harmed in law enforcement interactions. I’m confident that we ultimately arrived at demographically and fairly ideologically diverse board that will engage the work in good faith and serve our community well.

Gaines letter:

Chairman Collins,

Thank you for your continued efforts to keep communities in Georgia safe. You and your committee have led on public safety issues facing our state. I'm proud to have worked alongside you on several priorities,

including our legislation to stop local governments from defunding the police. That legislation spurred from efforts in Athens to cut 50% of our police department's budget. Since that time, our Commission has decided to appoint a so-called civilian police oversight board. Unfortunately, that process has been tainted, and that's why I’m writing today.

I request your committee look what is happening in Athens-Clarke County (ACC) with our Public Safety Civilian Oversight Board. Recent media reports have shown that the ACC Commission intentionally conspired to prevent conservatives from being appointed to this board. The Commission, which is responsible for appointing local governing bodies, deliberately manipulated the interview process to shut out conservative political opponents - and award appointments exclusively to progressive candidates who aligned with their own radical agendas.

Text messages, which I've attached to this letter, show that ACC Commissioners changed their scores for candidates they interviewed to remove conservatives from consideration and ensure their preferred picks were selected. Those text messages include a message from Commissioner Tim Denson to Commissioner Mariah Parker saying, "Try to make your math work so the “conservative” people don’t make it." The text messages show a clear bias - and a shady effort to keep conservatives off a local board responsible for public safety policy in our city. Although it’s not surprising that the same Commissioners who attempted to defund our local police department in 2020 are now attempting to remove conservative opposition from the Police Oversight Board, it is unquestionably wrong.

I call on the Commission to dissolve the board and restart the recruitment process - this time, without manipulating it for personal political gain. At a time when we're seeing increased crime, Athenians deserve a fair selection process and a diverse board - not one hand-picked to promote the 'defund the police' agenda via secret texts. If the Commission doesn’t do so, I respectfully request your Committee consider holding hearings on this matter to ensure the law was followed - and that the General Assembly look to find ways to protect Athens and other communities from such decisions in the future.

Thank you again for your great work leading the Public Safety Committee and for your service.

Respectfully,

Houston Gaines

State Representative – District 117