A long-simmering rivalry between two Savannah City Council members turned ugly earlier this month, as Alderman Kurtis Purty and Alderwoman Keisha Gibson-Carter traded vulgar insults in an exchange outside the council chamber.
Purty accused Gibson-Carter of being a “child predator and a pedophile”, calling him a “ghetto b***” in response. Purti is a white, openly gay man while Gibson-Carter is a black woman.
Argument Sept. 8 followed the council meeting and was recorded on a body camera worn by a Savannah police officer who witnessed the argument. Body camera footage was obtained using the Georgia Open Records Act.
Warning: The following video contains vulgar language that readers may find offensive.
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Purty admitted to using the “ghetto b****” slur in a telephone interview earlier this week. Contacted Thursday about the incident, Gibson-Carter shared a complaint letter she sent to Georgia Southern University President Kyle Marrero, listing her grievances with GSU Police Captain Purty.
Purty and Gibson-Carter have a tense history, with Purty twice filing ethics complaints against Gibson-Carter. He repeatedly tells her to “shut up” during a tense council meeting.
Contacted for comment on the name-calling incident, Gibson-Carter responded with an email that read in part, “It is unfortunate that I have to continue to respond to issues related to attacks on my person. I would rather use space in your paper.” address the most pressing issues facing our community; such as rising crime, poverty, forced displacement, homelessness and property taxes
What provoked an argument?
After the Sept. 8 meeting, Gibson-Carter was speaking with constituents outside the council chamber. Purty says he approached the two to add to the conversation, and Gibson-Carter dismissed him by calling him “boy,” which he said he found offensive.
The constituent “stated that she was not interested in speaking with him. I then asked him not to say anything to her because he was upset with her and the staff,” Gibson-Carter said via email.
Purty says he then began calling Gibson-Carter a “ghetto b****.”
Purty said the constituent Gibson-Carter was talking to was one of her District 5 residents. According to Purti, the constituent came to address the property concern but was turned down as the matter was not on the agenda of the meeting. Purty said he is familiar with the property and the project planned for the site and wants to share the information.
Purty said Gibson-Carter confronted him, called him “boy” twice, and told him to “go somewhere else.” She then made comments about him being a “child predator and pedophile”.
“The way she dismissed and called me ‘boy’ twice, when I went over there to help talk to this woman, that kind of threw me off,” Purty said. “And then for her to call me a child predator and a pedophile, that pissed me off right there.”
Gibson-Carter said Purty’s “ghetto b****” comment was particularly concerning, because Purty is a police officer and trained in de-escalation.
“The use of the word ‘ghetto’ clearly presents the encounter as racist. And as a woman in leadership, I cannot let this go,” Gibson-Carter said in her email. “Kurtis Purteee works at a university with black people and women. He carries a badge and a gun and has the power to arrest. That’s a dangerous power for someone who hates women and African-Americans.”
Purti said he had to call on his de-escalation training during the interaction, noting, “I had to center myself there for a minute because I thought, here we go.”
What does a body cam video show?
The incident after the incident was captured on the police officer’s body camera. The first few seconds are muted, but the footage shows Purty talking to Gibson-Carter outside the council chambers on the second floor of City Hall, with the officer standing between them.
When the camera is in full view, the officer unmutes the body camera around the 30-second mark. “She always treats employees like s***. I’ll be glad when she’s gone,” says Purti, the first words heard.
Gibson-Carter, holding her phone in filming position, tells Purty “Let’s go live.” Gibson-Carter frequently hosts livestreams on her Facebook page. Purti then leaves and Gibson-Carter says, “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
Then Gibson-Carter, phone in hand, points to someone off-screen and says, “I guess that makes you one too, because you all look alike,” before asking the officer if the interaction was recorded on a body camera. had been done.
“Did you get that on camera? He’s calling me a ghetto b****? Did you get that?” “He called me a ghetto b****,” Gibson-Carter says, telling another person out of the camera’s field of view.
The recording also shows Assistant City Manager Heath Lloyd speaking with the woman whose concerns both Gibson-Carter and Purty were trying to address.
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Gibson-Carter then tells the officer recording the body camera footage, “You know what? I feel sorry for you. Just a real disappointment. Just a real disappointment, and I hate that things have to go the way they are. I I really do.”
“You know what he does on a daily basis. And it’s unfortunate that you have this job,” Gibson-Carter says, still directed at the City Hall police officer.
What is the history between the two council members?
The term of the current council has been marked by similar turmoil. In December 2021, the City Council voted 6–3 to reprimand Gibson-Carter after calling Alderman Nick Palumbo a racist earlier that month.
In January 2022, Purti brought forward an agenda item calling for City Council officials to reconsider their response to the incident between Palumbo and Gibson-Carter. At the time, Gibson-Carter was serving as council chair, a position she was selected to hold during the first council meeting of 2020.
Purty’s motion passed, and Gibson-Carter was stripped of her council chairwoman title.
In August 2020, four council members, including Purti, filed an ethics complaint against Gibson-Carter stemming from a closed session on the city manager search.
In his complaint, Purty cited a number of ethical issues including Gibson-Carter using “foul language” toward council members in closed sessions, physically threatening another council member, making public allegations of unethical practices at City Hall without evidence, providing false information. was Became verbally aggressive with the public, and bullied other council members and the mayor, disparaged the city manager search recruiter, and refused to be a part of the city manager’s hiring process.
A three-member ethics board found Gibson-Carter in violation of the city’s ethics code at a hearing on October 29, 2020.
Will Peebles is a city council and county commission reporter for the Savannah Morning News, covering local Savannah and Chatham County decisions. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @willpeeblesSMN
Drew Fawkeh is a public safety reporter for the Savannah Morning News. You can reach her at [email protected]
This article originally appeared on the Savannah Morning News: Savannah alderman points offensive slur at fellow council member