UPDATE: Board Decides Against Ethics Hearing for Thomas

It took less than an hour for an Ethics Board to decide against holding a hearing on charges Alderman Tony Thomas violated the ethics of his office.

The board said the complaint filed by Debra Kujawa and Karen Thompson did not follow ordinance guidelines for an ethics violation and they do not want to hold a hearing.

This came after a nearly hour long session filled with angry comments on both sides.

“Tony Thomas has called them liars skanks hags and bitches. That’s not fair treatment.” said Craig Hall, one of the lawyers for the women.

Hall went on to say, “His comments do not foster any integrity. He is using his office to attack his opponents.”

Lawyer Don Montgomery added “Give them a chance to be heard. Hags, skanks, whores. That’s what he called his own constituents.”

Thomas then spoke on his own behalf, saying in part “(Debra) Kujawa is not as innocent as she seems.” and “Thompson has been a “mortal enemy” of mine for years.”

Thomas claimed neither woman was as “innocent” as they claimed. “They ran a nasty and covert campaign to try and unseat me.”

“This is frivolous. They instigated it. I don’t need to attack two old women.” explained Thomas.

In the end the board decided Thomas’s behavior did not violate his position as an Alderman or conflict his own personal interest vs city interests.

The women aren’t finished yet. They filed an amended complaint with new allegations just before this hearing started.

It claims that Thomas is using his position as an Alderman to his personal benefit. It adds that he is using his status as an Alderman to influence members of the public to conduct personal business with his company, including placing ads on buses for Chatham Area Transit.

That new complaint was tabled at this meeting and another hearing will be held on its merit in the coming months.

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Tony Thomas has been under fire from various media sources over the past few weeks. But its his own words which have him in front of an Ethics Board Wednesday.

Two women, Karen Thompson and Debra Kujawa have filed a complaint against the Savannah Alderman for his posts on social media and what they say he’s done to them in public.

They both claim its all based on their passionate support of his challenger in November’s election, David Self.

Since then on his Facebook page, Thomas has described Kujawa as a “lying skank” and a “hag”, and Thompson and Kujawa have been described in a post as “white bitches”.

Thompson also claims Thomas verbally berated her in person, in front of clients during an antiques auction earlier this year.

An Ethics board will hear their complaint at City Hall at 2pm Wednesday.

News 3 will be in the hearing. Follow @wsav and @wsavandrew for up to the minute details. For a full wrap up of the day with video and sound from the hearing, tune in to WSAV News 3 at 5, 530 and 6.

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We’ve heard of name calling and harassment on Facebook, mostly involving high school aged people.  But how about an issue that involves a city council member?

Two Savannah women have filed an ethics complaint against Alderman Tony Thomas, claiming his behavior has violated the city’s ethics ordinance.  Debra Kujawa and Karen Thompson say Thomas began a “campaign of hate” against them about two months ago.  The complaint says the hard feelings began over last November’s election (which Thomas won.)  But they say he harassed them online anyway after the election.

In one post offered as evidence for the complaint Thomas calls one of the women a “hag” and it goes downhill from there.

The women charge that specific areas of the ethics ordinance have been violated including that:

** Elected officials will be independent, impartial and responsible to the people
** Public office will not be used for person gain
** The  public have confidence in the integrity of the government

In addition to online name calling, the complaint charges that Thomas showed up at a work event of Karen Thompson’s and also at her workplace and made comments to embarrass and harass her.

Debra Kujawa told me “” I have the right to question or disagree with my alderman. We felt this name calling was unbelievable and wrong and that if we did not speak up we were basically saying to him (Thomas ) to keep dong it.”

Thomas told us that he wants to reserve comment until a hearing is held.

Members of the Ethics Committee must hold a hearing within 30 days.  If Thomas is found to be in the wrong, he could be subject to public reprimand or censure by a majority vote of the mayor and city council.

READ FULL COMPLAINT HERE: 

NOTICE OF COMPLAINT

Date:   February 10, 2016

This complaint is filed on behalf of and by the PLAINTIFFS:

Debra D Kujawa

Karen Thompson

DEFENDANT:

Frank A “Tony” Thomas

District 6 Alderman

We, the undersigned, acknowledge and attest that the information and/or accusations contained in this complaint is/are accurate and factual to the best of our ability, and as sworn by our signatures herein:

_____________________________________          ____________________________________

Debra D Kujawa, PLAINTIFF                                        Karen Thompson, PLAINTIFF

State of Georgia County of CHATHAM, Signed or attested before me on _______________, 2016,  by

Debra D Kujawa and Karen Thompson, [Printed name(s) of individual(s) signing document] who proved to me on the basis of satisfactory evidence to be the person(s) who appeared before me.

____Personally Known or

____Produced Identification Type of ID _______________________________

Signature of Notary                                                                                                        Date:

February 10, 2016

Dyanne C Reese

Clerk of Council

City of Savannah

2 East Bay St.

Savannah, GA  31401

Re:  Notice of Complaint

Dear Ms. Reese:

During the early summer of 2015, a group of individuals who live in District 6 gathered to discuss several issues concerning Alderman Tony Thomas–his activities and attitude toward many of us in this district–which resulted in our supporting one of three challengers during the most recent general election held on September 1, 2015, David Self.  While we, the PLAINTIFFS, admit to being very passionate and supportive of a challenger, our energy was focused on positive support of Mr. Self and not through mudslinging or negative accusations towards Mr. Thomas.  

Unfortunately, even though Alderman Thomas won his race by a substantial margin, he has been vengeful and spiteful to the point of an all-out hate campaign directed at both of us (PLAINTIFFS) and several others who were positive and vocal towards a different candidate.

Below is a synopsis of written/published citations from some of Mr. Thomas’ posts publicly on Facebook.  This is not just embarrassing to us as well as our friends and families, but we contend this is—or should be—an embarrassment to the entire city of Savannah and all who serve in public office, and rises to the level of a violation of many specific sections of the Code of Ethics Ordinance for the City of Savannah elected officials.

On December 1, 2015, Debra Kujawa received a message from a friend of hers on Facebook referencing a series of posts on the District 6 Alderman’s personal Facebook page, “Tony Thomas,” who alerted her to the posts via screen shots. [see attached and referenced below]

  • The posts are clearly authored by Mr. Thomas who is very specific in his post to say:

(Tony Thomas):  ”The Self campaign and his hag, Debra Kujawa and those misfits helped spread this and the attornies [misspelled intentionally preserving the original post] are looking…” 

  • At the top of the page Mr. Thomas continues:

(Tony Thomas):  “Debra Kujawa is a lying skank that y’all are going to love getting go [this may have been intended to be the word “to” but preserved as in the original post] know on here.  Going to expose her starting this week.”

  • Continuing on the same page Thomas replies to a comment made by Lynnette Dayhoff:

(Dayhoff): “I know everyone has an opinion….but you as an elected official should let your lawyers handle it.”

(Tony Thomas): “Oh both them and I are going to handle a few of these scumbags.”

  • Same page further in reply to a comment from Jennifer Huntley:

(Huntley):  “Let it go.  Promote what you care about instead.  Go to yoga Tony Thomas.”

(Tony Thomas):  “LOL”

(Tony Thomas):  “Nope.  Let those ho’s go as far as I will.”

  • Chris R Daniels writes:

(Daniels):  “Was it two white guys driving a black Camaro that said these ugly remarks? Lol”

(Tony Thomas):  “No.  It was two white bitches in my case but hey, they got houses right now.  Debra and Karen to start.”

  • Thomas names additional individuals:

(Tony Thomas):  “Aer Scott, it’s cool.  I can handle most people.  Funny thing is—skanks like Debra Kujawa, Karen Thompson, Russ Sill and others have been ignored until now people need to know who they really are.  I’m going to have fun.  Might piss some people off but none of these people above need worrying about defending me.  Kujawa and Thompson are pure bitches that I have no respect for.  And Russ Sill, he’s a joke.  He’s been evicted more times and sued for non-payment more times than I’ve been elected.  Hell, his own dick doctor sued him for non-payment.  The way he talks, I’m sure it’s been repossessed.  And David Self, don’t even get me started on that joke.”

On the evening of December 1, 2015, both complainants attended a campaign “watch party” at the invitation of the DeLoach family.  Upon being introduced to Lowell Kronowitz, a prominent business owner in Savannah, he immediately said to Debra Kujawa [a complainant herein]:

  • (Kronowitz): “Debra Kujawa???  THE Debra Kujawa Tony Thomas has been beating up on Facebook all day?”

Many of the guests also in attendance expressed their concern and commented to Mrs. Kujawa about the above referenced Facebook post, causing extreme embarrassment and consternation to her.

Within hours of Mr. Thomas post on Facebook, screenshots of his posts appeared on the Stone Stairs of Death Facebook page—a local, very high profile page [12,000+ “LIKES”]—with the opening words:

  • “Ummmm….is it just me, or does District 6 Alderman Tony Thomas appear to be making a pretty blatant threat vs. Debra Kujawa and Karen Thompson???” [See attached]
  • Jim Morekis, editor of Connect Savannah, commented immediately:

(Morekis):  “He is claiming he will sue them and take their houses.  Apparently for ‘slander.’”

What then follows are some transcripts of the posted screen shots from Mr. Thomas’ Facebook page (see attached physical copies of ALL posts referenced herein as well as additional screenshots of Facebook posts) and comments from dozens of people expressing very negative views concerning Thomas’ posts—these “comments” were included as evidentiary corroboration of the negative and threatening nature of the posts by the alderman.  Neither Debra Kujawa nor Karen Thompson commented within any of the threads contained in these posts at any time.

Also attached is a barrage of posts on Facebook directed primarily at Debra Kujawa…Mr. Thomas has taken to using the image of a Grinch to personally try to discredit and humiliate her.

  • (Tony Thomas): “Looks so much like Debra and Karen that I can’t not share.”  [here he tagged 2 of his ‘friends’, David Roach and Walt Harper]

The caption also read…When a hater keeps looking at you.  Bitch we can square up right now.

In one post, he appears to try and generate a call to action when he says,

  • (Tony Thomas): “Ole Debra down at the Dhu is really getting desperate.  This rainy day has her all gloomy…haha.  Somebody please go appease her…” in one of his Grinch posts.

Additional “Grinch” posts:

  • (Tony Thomas): “Reminds me of this one little woman who lives near Rose Dhu that cyber stalks me….lol.  Hair, disposition and all.  God bless her J.”  He adds:  “I shall call her Debra.”
  • (Tony Thomas): “Ole Debs busy down there near Rose Dhu today.  Such vileness….lol” He continues:  “I’m serious y’all.  You have to see this little woman.  This picture [Grinch at the desk—attached] actually warms her up.  I’ll be updating on this creatures move and those of her pack along the way…haha.”
  • (Tony Thomas): “Rose Dhu beware.  She’s awake.”
  • (Tony Thomas): “Oh Lord, Dear Jesus.  She’s creeping again.  They must be smokin’ her out The Dhu.”

These additional posts, which contain specific information as to where Debra Kujawa lives, have raised serious concerns as to the possible additional complaint of cyber stalking and cyber bullying—both of which support complete disregard for the initial directive of the code:

Sec-2-106-1

“Declaration of Policy.  City of Savannah government elected officials are hereby required to demonstrate integrity, honesty, and impartiality in their conduct as elected officials…”

The following incident pertains solely to Karen Thompson (PLAINTIFF), who describes personal stalking and harassment by Alderman Thomas involving a campaign event in the latter part of Sept. 2015:

Mrs. Thompson was engaged in a conversation with a friend at the event.  Tony Thomas approached her and stuck his face between Karen and her friend and began to make negative comments about Mrs. Thompson directly to the other party.  When Mrs. Thompson—who was shocked and appalled at his remarks—moved away and was greeted by another friend, Mr. Thomas followed her and repeated his words and actions to the second individual.  Mrs. Thompson was extremely embarrassed by Mr. Thomas’ words and actions to the extent she then left the event to avoid further embarrassment.  She did not wish to expose herself or others to more of his abusive language or actions.

Because Mrs. Thompson deals in estate sales and antiquities, she sometimes crosses paths with Mr. Thomas at area auctions.  In the course of attending such auctions, Mr. Thomas has on multiple occasions, singled her out to other customers through finger pointing and laughing, directing remarks to those people who are unknown to Mrs. Thompson.

In yet another incident, Mrs. Thompson was speaking with a new client of hers (at her place of employment) when Mr. Thomas entered the building with a teen aged male and said loudly for all to hear…“That’s her.  Keep your eye on her.  You cannot trust her.”  His intent was to interfere with her livelihood, embarrass, debase and create doubt in people’s minds about Mrs. Thompson’s worthiness and character.

Based on the information submitted herein and attached, we, the PLAINTIFFS, feel that the following specific areas of this code were blatantly violated by Alderman Thomas [the highlighted portions]:

1. Elected officials will be independent, impartial, and responsible to the people;

2. That governmental decisions and policy be made in proper channels of the governmental structure;

3. That public office not be used for personal gain;

4. That the public have confidence in the integrity of its government.

And additionally:

2-106-2

Statement of Purpose. This ordinance is intended to ensure that elected officials:

* Serve others, not themselves;

* Use resources with efficiency and economy;

* Treat all people fairly;

* Use the power of our position for the wellbeing of our constituents;

* Create an environment of honesty, openness, and integrity.

Freedom of speech, as guaranteed by the First Amendment to our United States Constitution, has been a hallmark within the first ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights, adopted in 1791.  Through the years the courts have allowed a great deal of latitude as to the manner and substance of what is considered “free speech” and that which borders on “slander/libel” and “defamation” especially among public and private individuals.  In most cases though, public officials are generally held to a higher standard of accountability and are charged with the responsibility of the content and dissemination of their words and actions, whether spoken or written—especially more recently—within the context of social media.

While Mr. Thomas may assert his First Amendment rights in affording him the ability to comment at will publicly, we feel his use of derogatory, inflammatory and sexist language, including hate speech and name calling, rises to a level of prejudice and highly offensive, threatening behavior which demonstrates a complete and callous disregard for both the office to which he was elected as well as toward those whom he has taken an oath to represent:  his constituents.

Mr. Thomas specifically targeted Debra Kujawa and Karen Thompson in his unprovoked and vitriolic remarks even though neither of us opposed him as a candidate during the November 3rd election.  In fact, in his remarks, Mr. Thomas refers to David Self, one of his challengers, as “a joke” and never mentions the other two individuals who challenged him.  This indicates a specific and personal attack on the part of Mr. Thomas, directed at both (PLAINTIFFS), but more recently, just Debra Kujawa.

We feel that this complaint is both justified and fully supported by the evidence attached.  We respectfully request the Board of Ethics address these issues at their earliest possible opportunity in the method prescribed by section 2-106-14 and any other applicable areas pertaining to this section.

Thank you.

Debra D Kujawa                                                         Karen Thompson

PLAINTIFF                                                                    PLAINTIFF

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