by: Erica Byfield Updated:
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - There was a heated exchange at the State Capitol on Monday between the governor and members of Georgia's NAACP.
Gov. Nathan Deal organized the meeting with voting rights advocates from the group to discuss his decision to suspend six DeKalb County School Board members.
"I think that we have acted harshly, and I think the people of DeKalb have spoken. They have chosen their elected officials, and if they want them to be removed, they should either use recall or vote them out in 2014," said DeKalb County State Rep. Dee Haigler.
Members of the NAACP briefed the news media after their 90-minute closed-door session. Marcus Coleman said the governor made an insensitive comment.
"His point was, and I quote 'Find some good black people to run for office.' Here's a message to the governor: 'You don't dictate who is good and who is bad, as far as who we choose our leaders," he said.
A spokesman for Deal told said the governor was not being insensitive and was instead responding to comments that the NAACP members wanted a suspended African-American board member replaced by an African-American.
"He was encouraging them, since they were making race a major, issue in this to get involved in this process and make sure that we have some really good African-American candidates who represent their community well to go on this school board," Brian Robinson said on behalf of Deal.
Meanwhile, interviews to replace the suspended board members continued on Monday. To date, the nomination panel the governor commissioned has interviewed close to 60 people. The names of the 12 finalists could be released as soon as Tuesday.