Harvey: County Commission May Seek to Censure Brooks

Chairman says “extreme” behavior of controversial commissioner, who refused his request that she apologize for remarks made at Monday meeting, showed “disrespect to the body and a disregard to the public.”



County Commission chairman James Harvey
A move may be afoot among members of the Shelby County Commission to censure Commissioner Henri Brooks for her behavior at Monday’s Commission meeting, and there has even been some talk of seeking her expulsion from the body.

That’s according to James Harvey, Commission chairman, who said he doubted it was either desirable or possible to expel Brooks, who, as Harvey pointed out, is term-limited and “will be leaving the Commission in three months, anyway.”

But a censure resolution may be in the offing for the next Commission meeting, affirmed Harvey, and he said, “I would be inclined to support it if a majority of the body feels it is needed.”

The chairman acknowledged that he and Brooks had engaged in a shouting match during a break in proceedings Monday, when the two of them were both in the main Commission office adjoining the body’s meeting room.

Harvey said he told Brooks that she owed a public apology to Pablo Pereya, the young Hispanic man who had gone to the Commission witness table Monday to defend Latinos against what he regarded as an implied criticism by Brooks and Commissioner Walter Bailey.

The two commissioners had argued that the employment of Hispanics on a county roofing project satisfied equal-opportunity mandates for minority employment only technically while black workers continued to be discriminated against.

Pereya had made the case that Hispanics were legitimately classified as a minority and that “growing up Hispanic in Memphis is definitely [being] a minority in the minority.”

Brooks had retorted, “Your experience does not compare to mine….You asked to come here. You asked to come here. We did not. And when we got here, our condition was so egregious, so barbaric. Don’t ever let that come out of your mouth again, because — you know what? — that only hurts your case. Don’t compare the two. They’re not comparable.”

The response of Brooks to Harvey’s request that she apologize to Pereya was an adamant refusal, said Harvey, who had appealed to her on three grounds — that her attitude was damaging to the cohesion of the Commission, “which I’ve tried to keep balanced on racial, political, and gender grounds;” was a hindrance to her current candidacy as Democratic nominee for Juvenile Court Clerk,; and was improperly dismissive of minorities other than African Americans.

Harvey, himself an African American, said he felt that Brooks’ behavior in toto — including the set-to with Pereya, her calling-out to Commissioner Chris Thomas as “you with the sheet on,” and her use of an implied obscenity to Commissioner Mike Ritz — was “embarrassing” and showed “a disrespect to the body and a disregard to the public.”

Harvey said he didn’t regard it to be his duty to “police” his colleagues or to criticize them publicly, but he said Brooks’ behavior had been “so extreme that it was only fair for me to speak to it.”


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