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Morrow leaders get ‘passionate’ in meeting

— A Morrow City Council meeting filled with raised voices, confrontations and even accusations, was simply council members — in their own words — being “passionate” about the city, they said. 

“This is not an argument ... you can just know that we’re having a conversation, so when you can write this up, you can just say we’re having a discussion,” Councilwoman Jeanell Bridges told a reporter in the middle of the disagreement.

Councilman Bob Huie quickly joked, “Well if I what I said [two weeks ago] was an argument by print, then this is an argument, too,” referring to a recent Clayton News Daily article about tensions on the council.

The tense situation that occurred this week appears to be a continuation of underlying friction that has existed on the council for months. Last fall, the council was moving towards censuring Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke but backed off after questions were raised about whether they were violating Georgia’s open meetings law in the process.

Burke quietly expressed fears at the time that he thought the council’s endgame was to remove him from office.

In the span of only a couple of minutes, the council meeting went from monotonous to heated and back to monotonous.

Council members, Burke and City Manager Jeff Eady raise their voices. They act harshly toward each other. They trade accusations. Then they seem to make up.

Some may say it’s like an old marriage but this group has been together for less than 17 months.

An exchange between Eady, Burke and Bridges recently occurred when a council member accused officials of misleading the council on property sales. Eady had asked councilman Larry Ferguson if he had visited Planning and Economic Development Director Michael McLaughlin to discuss his concerns about the sales.

“Jeff, I really think you’re trying to put the blame back on Larry,” Burke said.

“No, no, not at all,” Eady replied.

Burke then cut the city manager off and said, “Hold on a minute and let me finish.”

“Well, I ...,” Eady said.

“I said let me finish,” Burke said.

“I have ...,” Eady said.

“Would you give me just a little bit of respect and just listen to me for a moment?” Burke interjected.

The mayor then looked at Bridges and said, “I’m sorry if that’s shocking to you, but I’m going to say what’s on my mind. I am still the mayor of this city.”

Bridges calmly said, “Well that doesn’t mean that you have to be ...,” before Burke cut her off and accused her of making a face at him.

“You don’t have to do that either,” Burke said.

Bridges asked, “Do what?”

“That look and smirk that you constantly do,” Burke said.

At that point, Bridges turned her attention to the reporter in the room and Burke turned his attention back toward chastising Eady. It wasn’t long, however, before the mayor and councilwoman turned their attentions back toward each other.

“I don’t have a problem with what you have to say,” Bridges said.

“Apparently, you do Ms. Bridges,” Burke responded.

“I just think that if we can’t respect each other ...,” Bridges said.

Burke cut her off and said, “We don’t respect each other. Why don’t you just come out and say it? I would like to know why you don’t respect me.”

Seemingly shocked, Bridges asked, “What is it that I’ve ever done to disrespect you?”

“I’ll give you a list of reasons ... I’ll email you a list,” Burke said.

“Please do,” said Bridges, who then called for a Point of Order in the meeting.

While the scene was tense, it was seemingly nothing at the end of the day. Burke apologized to the council for his actions before heading off to a previous engagement. Bridges walked out with him and they had a private conversation.

Eady simply brushed off the incident.

“Everybody here is just passionate for the city, that’s all,” Eady told Burke as he left the room.