While Porterdale’s work session on Thursday was business as usual, an eruption at the close of the meeting stirred emotions from a long brewing feud over the Community Assistance Relief Effort’s ability to hold charitable events on city property and collect donations through residents’ water bill.
Resident Nancy Naya inquired if Councilman Robert Foxworth was making decisions based on a personal agenda rather than the best interest of the city residents and well being.
"In the last meeting, where there was this problem with the CARE committee not being able to use city property," Naya said. "It’s my understanding that someone took it upon themselves to dig in to find out if the use of city property was even allowed. And lo and behold, we have a little law there that says we can’t. I’m sure councilwoman Finger would not do anything that would be against the law — she’s just not made that way. But it really concerns me that someone would go to a lot of trouble to go do something like that. And they hold a post position here and I wonder sometimes if some of their other decision making policies are based on emotion rather than a responsible decision that should be for the good of the citizens and community."
Councilman Foxworth, who had stepped out of the room, returned to his seat as Naya continued.
"And come election time, they're out there talking to citizens and meeting everybody, so they know who you are and you put your little mask on and you let them see that side," Naya added. "Then you get in office and you take that mask off. And when I see somebody that tries to tear down a very good thing that’s working, why would you want to break it if it’s working?"
Foxworth interrupted Naya to ask what she was talking about.
"Arlene asked me if I had something specific, and I was explaining that I was very concerned at the last meeting," Naya explained. "And of course, Robert, it was you."
"That's right," Foxworth said.
"And I'm ashamed of you," Naya said.
"I don't care," Robert snapped.
"I know you don't," Naya said. "That right there proves to me which mask you have on."
At this point, Mayor Bobby Hamby interrupted the brewing situation, saying, "This isn't the place to do this. This is a work session. If you have a complaint, we have a process you can..."
"Well, I'm embarrassed," Naya continued. "That we have a person that is sitting in that chair that runs his decision-making the way that he does..."
"Keep talking about me and I'm going to fire some shots at you that you ain't going to like," Foxworth retorted.
"Don't threaten me," she replied.
"I'm not threatening you, it's a promise," he said.
Hamby attempted to adjourn the meeting, but Naya and Foxworth continued.
"Well, you asked if there was anything else to be said, and I have said it," Naya said to Hamby. Then she turns to Foxworth and says, "and don't you threaten me."
"I'm not threatening you," Foxworth repeated. "That's a promise, Nancy. You say one more thing about me..."
Hamby quickly firmed his tone and adjournedthe meeting. The council then went into closed executive meeting to discuss personnel issues.
During the city council's Aug. 2 meeting, a measure was approved unanimously to allow donations made by citizens in their water bill to be distributed by the CARE committee to struggling senior citizens and families in Porterdale.
It was discovered, in the following days after the approval, rules under the Georgia Municipal Association prohibited charitable organizations like CARE from collecting the funds and using of city property to hold fundraising events.
The finding led to the postponement of the ordinance, with the council needing to amend their charter. Hamby noted, in a previous article from The News, the delay will present a good opportunity for the council to update their charter and this CARE program was just a temporary delay and is something the council will continue to pursue.
In an interview with The News on the day following the incident, Foxworth explained at first, he just wanted to make sure it was ethical of Councilwoman Linda Finger to be both a member of the council and the founder of the CARE committee. He eventually determined it was lawful for her do so, as she was essentially a volunteer for CARE.
However, while having breakfast with an attorney, a known friend of Foxworth's, the subject of resident donations collected through water bills was brought to the table.
"He felt that it was not legal for us to do that," Foxworth said. "So I called GMA's legal department and explained to her what the resolution was and we did as a city.
"(GMA) told me the donations were considered gratuity, therefore illegal," Foxworth said. "I called our city attorney Tim Chambers ... I asked him if he would give GMA a call to verify the legality of the situation. And I'm not trying to take anything away from Tim, he's does an exceptional job on everything we've asked him to do. Maybe this was just something he missed."
According to Foxworth, when the announcement was made to the CARE committee about the discovery, Finger sent letters bashing Fozworth's actions to CARE, Friends of Porterdale and even the Newton Citizen. Councilwoman Finger could not be reached for comment.
"Linda and I have had our disputes in the past," Foxworth said. "We don't see eye-to-eye on everything. But everyone's reading more into this than what it really is. My best interest is in the city and the welfare of the citizens... They say I hurt the people of Porterdale... But if GMA says it's illegal, and if we go on to do it, what if some other organization comes along and challenges us, who going to pay for it? Our taxpayers are going to have to pay for that."
Naya, on the other hand, is more concerned with Foxworth's behavior.
"I just wanted to ask him what his motive was to dig in like he did, but then he snapped at me," Naya said, in an interview following the day after the incident. "I was so stunned and unprepared for the verbal lashing and assault he put on me.
"I had heard from people after that night that say he has done this type of thing before, but of course, that's just hearsay coming from me," Naya said. "But his behavior towards me that night was highly unethical for the position he has here in this city as a council member... He is to treat the citizens with respect, understanding and to maintain proper composure at all times. His behavior was way out of line and should be reprimanded for his actions against a citizen.
"He really showed me what kind of person he really was. Now I know what mask he's wearing."