Hearing underway for Savannah Council members involved in ethics violation

BySean Evans|September 24, 2020 at 3:46 PM EDT - Updated October 29 at 9:46 AM

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A hearing is being held Thursday for a Savannah Council member involved in an ethics violation complaint.

The hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. Watch the hearing LIVE below. (WARNING: This stream may contain profanity.)

An ethics board met for the first time Thursday morning to read word for word two ethics violations complaints filed against Savannah Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter earlier this month.

The complaints, brought by four of Gibson-Carter’s fellow Council members, allege she used vulgar language, threatened another Council member and the reputation of a city manager search firm during a closed-door session.

Theethics board, appointed by the last city council in 2018, consists of Dr. Jose de Arimateia da Cruz, Thomas Hersch and chaired by Savannah attorney Christian J. Steinmetz III.

Steinmetz said, “This is the very first ethics board matter that this ethics board and the members have dealt with.”

Today was all about reading aloud for the public the ethics violations complaints lodged against Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter by Alderman Kurtis Purtee, and another by Alderman Detric Leggett, Alderman Nick Palumbo and Alderwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan.

“It was merely a reading of the charges, much like an indictment. It’s not evidence, it’s not substantive, in the sense that we’re not deliberating on it, we’re not considering it. Certainly, it’s substantive in that it outlines the complaint," said Steinmetz.

Steinmetz said the hearing, set to take place on October 29, could in some ways seem like a trial or administrative hearing, considering each of the council members involved could hire lawyers to represent them, and bring evidence and call on witnesses for the hearing.

The ethics board chairman said he and his fellow members just want everyone to be heard, and for the process to be as transparent as possible.

“I feel very confident that their goal is that, that is certainly the board’s, which is to be efficient, to be absolutely fair and to perform our duty to the best of our ability.”

Alderman Kurtis Purtee told WTOC at this point, he isn’t planning on seeking outside counsel to represent him during the hearing. Purtee said he’d likely call on other Council members to corroborate his allegations against Alderwoman Gibson-Carter.

Any Council member involved in the hearing has to report to the ethics board by October 15 if they are being represented by a lawyer at the hearing, and if they plan to present evidence or call on witnesses.

WTOC reached out to Gibson-Carter to see if she is planning on being represented by an attorney at the hearing, introducing evidence or calling on witnesses.

RELATED:Alderwoman Gibson-Carter addresses ethics complaint allegations

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