LOWNDES COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - Lowndes County commissioners say racial language from one of their own members led them to censure the fellow commissioner.
Leaders say they gave a formal statement of disapproval to District One Commissioner Robert Harris in August. Harris has served on the commission for 16 years.
Despite his long tenure, leaders say in the last two years Harris has become disruptive at meetings and has used racist remarks. Other members say something had to be done and at the suggestion of an attorney, they opted to censure Harris.
“We had a meeting back prior to the censure and we were dealing with resurfacing roads in the county," explained Commission Chairman Carnell McAlpine of District Two. "And he made a serious issue about the amount of money we’re putting in roads based on race when it’s really based on length of roads and the engineer report.”
McAlpine can’t recall there ever having been another instance in which a fellow commissioner had to be censured.
Fellow Commissioner Dickson Farrior says between 80 and 90 percent of votes are unanimous, but “Commissioner Harris, when he’s on the wrong end of a vote, he wants to make a racial issue out of it. He’s accused the chairman of voting with the white commissioners. He’s accused the chairman of having bad blood. He’s accused the chairman of being bought by the devil.”
WSFA 12 News reached out to Harris Thursday and he said he disagrees “100 percent” with allegations he’s made racial remarks and says it’s “totally bias and a scheme to try and embarrass me or quiet me from responding to things that are not fair for all people in the county.”
Harris says he gave the commission a copy of a letter from the State Association of County Commissions saying there is no law allowing the censure.
Harris says he’s asked that the censure be rescinded but has been refused. He declined to speculate on his future actions on the matter.
Since the censure was implemented, McAlpine says two commission meetings have occurred without incident.