Grovetown Mayor Gary Jones is standing behind a politically charged Facebook post he called “exposure” of two candidates running for city council, prompting one to say she felt bullied by him.
The post, which has since been removed from Jones’ Facebook page, accuses incumbent Vickie Cook and candidate Deborah Fisher of “teaming up,” to unseat the historical swing vote on the council, Sylvia Martin, who is also seeking re-election. There are two open seats on the four-member council.
Fisher expressed disappointment and surprise at the comment in an email Thursday and said she has never been bullied, but felt she was now. Fisher said she has no connection with Cook and has only met Jones at a city council meeting and at Tuesday’s candidate forum.
“He doesn’t even really know me. He doesn’t know my family. To put statements out there like that, I don’t think that was the right thing for him to do,” Fisher said. “It’s just so surprising. It just kind of hurt me because I didn’t think the mayor would get in the middle of elections like that.”
Fisher added she might have expected “mud slinging” between candidates, but not Jones.
Jones’ post goes on to say that all he has worked to accomplish will be undone and urged residents to vote for candidates Martin and Alan Transou, adding that he cannot “finish what I have started without the FULL support of Council.”
“If you want to go back to the way things were when I was elected, by all means vote Cook and Fisher,” the post stated. “If these two get voted in because of the lack of voter turnout and because citizens just don’t really care, don’t complain to me when they gain control.”
Fisher said Jones’ public post caused “undue influence,” in her bid for City Council, for which early voting begins Monday.
“To me that influences the election because that’s our mayor. I thought he would be neutral, at least until after the election was over. I was just a little disappointed in our mayor,” Fisher said. “I am going to keep on trying to do what I can do..”
The post comes days after city council and Jones approved a new social media use policy for employees; however Grovetown’s attorney, Christopher Dube, said the mayor’s post did not violate any city policies.
“The real question was whether that social media platform was a city owned and controlled site,” Dube said, adding that Jones created the site in 2015 while running for mayor. “In any event, out of precaution, I told him the best thing he could do was to remove the post. That way there is no confusion on whether it’s a city-owned site or a city-controlled site. And he did that. He moved it to his own personal page.”
Jones stated that he did not know Fisher, but welcomes her to disprove his statement.
“It is what it is,” Jones said. “ I do not know her at all. I have only spoken to her one time ever and that was at the debate in Harlem the other night.”
Jones said he moved the statement to another personal Gary Jones Facebook page, because it was in the best interest to the city.
“Of course I had a conversation (Thursday) with the city attorney who I wanted here in the first place to replace the one we had and I trust his advice,” Jones said. “He basically told me that I haven’t done anything wrong as far as the policy is concerned. However he feels it’s probably in the best interest of the city that I do not put that on the page that is labeled Mayor Gary Jones.”
In a new statement on the Mayor Gary Jones Facebook page, Jones issued a reminder that it was his personal page.
“As I have previously stated, this page is not a government page,” the new post stated.
“To avoid any further conflict or negativity, I have shared my last post to the Gary Jones page and removed it from this one. … As the Mayor and as Gary Jones, I will always try to do the right thing. So go and follow my page Gary Jones and get the truth. Thank you,” the post concluded.
Ultimately, Jones said, “I wanted to get information out that I thought the public needed to hear.”