Did a Georgia City Council Refuse to Give Its New Mayor the Keys to City Hall?

Mayor Rufus Davis is boycotting Camilla City Council meetings because of what he calls "segregationist practices."

  • Published 18 December 2017

The mayor of a Georgia community is boycotting his local city council meetings amid a dispute with both his fellow council members and his local city manager.

Camilla mayor Rufus Davis accused its city manager, Bennett Adams, of keeping him out of the local city hall during a 14 December 2017 interview aired on WAOK-AM in Atlanta, saying:

This city manager — considered by many in the community to be a segregationist — is the person who denied me keys to city hall.

The mayor, who was elected in 2015, did not specify whether he believed or knew if Davis did so on orders of the city council or on his own authority. He also said of Adams:

We have a white city manager who exercises, carte blanche, all decisions regarding city hires — police chief, the fire chief, all employees; they all report to him. His decisions are final, he does not need approval. If I need a paper clip, I have to ask him for the paper clip.

The interview was aired three days after Davis issued a statement saying that he and councilmember-elect Venterra Pollard would boycott council meetings as part of a “peaceful, nonviolent resistance campaign.” According to the statement:

The campaign is aimed at getting attention to widespread discriminatory and segregationist practices; a proposed new city charter; and the passive representation of certain officials, who are not serving their constituents.

The mayor’s statement includes several criticisms of the city: that none of the city’s twelve police officers are black; that only three City Hall employees “including the custodian” were black while 97 percent of black applicants for positions there had been rejected; that the local cemetery — which is owned by the city— is segregated; and that the city’s voting districts are “hyperly-gerrymandered,” ensuring that three of the six city council seats will go to white candidates.

We contacted Davis seeking further comment.

Adams, who has been the city manager for six and a half years, told us that it is city policy for none of the council members to have keys to City Hall, adding that the mayor does have keys to his own office within the building, which he received shortly after being elected. He has also rejected Davis’ accusations of prejudice in local government, saying that seven out of Camilla City Hall’s 22 employees are black.

Adams did confirm that there are currently no black officers in its police department. However, he said, the city did have three black officers as recently as two years ago, and it is in the process  of “actively recruiting” more black officers.

Adams also provided us with a copy of a November 2011 letter from the Justice Department to City Attorney Tommy Coleman approving the city’s redistricting plan based on the Census a year earlier. According to him, Davis’ protest effort is hurting what he calls a progressive community:

That’s not the way democracy’s supposed to work. I know at the national level if you’re a Democrat all the Republicans are bad and if you’re a Republican all the Democrats are bad. But our elected officials aren’t partisan.

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