Damage is done by councilman

Published 10:03 am Wednesday, June 12, 2013

During the June 10 meeting of Franklin City Council, Councilman Greg McLemore left his chair to address council from the podium during citizens’ time, in part to rebut a story published the previous day in The Tidewater News (“Council members respond,” by Stephen H. Cowles, June 9, 2013). In the story, the newspaper reported that McLemore had “called for picketing of council members Barry Cheatham and Benny Burgess’ job and business. He also called for a boycott of Mayor Raystine Ashburn’s business” in response to the group Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills. Those members say that city council is not taking sufficient action on their complaints over high utility bills.

When asked for the story if he supported picketing and boycotting the businesses of city council member as a way of addressing the group’s grievances, group spokesman Dr. Linwood Johnson said, “Our group is not doing any such business [as picketing]. We respect their businesses. Their businesses have nothing to do with the issue.”

When the newspaper asked Councilman McLemore to either confirm or deny the report that he supported a boycott, McLemore said he had no comment.

However, by citizen’s time during Monday’s meeting, McLemore had plenty to say. Among other things, he said he would “emphatically deny any involvement, participation, organization, orchestration or membership with any disgruntled group including the one led by Bishop Rev. Dr. Johnson claiming to represent any citizens of Franklin for personal gain or anyone planning or for participating in any picketing or boycotts whatsoever.”

It was an interesting comment, considering the fact that an interview he did grant for an article that appeared in New Journal & Guide (“In Franklin — Citizens to Seek Recall of Council,” by Leonard E. Colvin, Thursday, May 23, 2013) tells another story:

McLemore is still on council and is one of two members to have voiced support for the complaints by Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills. He has spoken for the recall. He also has called for boycotting the businesses owned by the mayor and Councilmen Barry Cheatham and Benny Burgess.

McLemore has said that if any council member is removed, the people — and not the council — should select their replacement.

“If the remaining council members select the replacement, if this recall works, then they will select people who agree with them,” said McLemore. “I think the idea of a boycott is a form of civil disobedience to bring about change similar to what took place in Selma in the 1950s. I think this would get the council’s attention; otherwise, their pleas for change will be ignored.”

The irony that McLemore now supports a recall of his fellow council members is astounding in many ways. Most notably, that the only thing he seems to have accomplished as a city councilman was to successfully lobby the General Assembly, along with Dr. Johnson we might add, to defeat proposed changes to the city charter that would have allowed citizens to recall city council members.

The sad fact he is providing the public with two different versions of what he considers to be the truth is not astounding at all.

Following his implausible denial regarding his position on picketing or boycotting the businesses of fellow council members, he went on to accuse The Tidewater News of attempting to assassinate his character.

The Random House Dictionary defines character assassination as a slandering attack, especially one intended to damage the reputation of a public or political figure. In other words, making stuff up about a public figure in an attempt to make them look bad.

McLemore’s tenure in office has required no such efforts on our part.

In fact, The Tidewater News, as is our responsibility, has simply shined a light on the antics of his first three years on city council. And, were we so inclined, any attempt by this newspaper to assassinate the councilman’s character would fall well short of the damage done to it by the councilman himself.