Employee's 'monkey' comment sparks outrage among residents

by: Erica Byfield Updated:

Channel 2 got a hold of an email chain in which Gary Cornell said "these properties are like a barrel full of monkeys," referring to a rundown apartment complex off of North Hairston Road and its potential uses in the future.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - An email from DeKalb County's interim planning director has several people across the county calling for him to be fired.

Channel 2's Erica Byfield obtained a copy of the email chain in which Gary Cornell said "these properties are like a barrel full of monkeys," referring to a rundown apartment complex off of North Hairston Road and its potential uses in the future.

"There have been over 200 fire calls since 2003 at that location, and Public Safety says there is something like five murders that have taken place there," Cornell told Byfield.

Even so, several people who read the email are convinced Cornell was talking about the citizens of DeKalb County.

"He meant what he said, there is no question," Willie Mosley said. "They hired him. This man needs to be fired on the spot."

During Tuesday's commission meeting, a number of people in the audience called for an investigation.

Richard Stogner, Cornell's boss, told Byfield he heard about the email three or four weeks ago.

"I explained to him and counseled with him about the sensitivity of these kind of issues," Stogner said.

Before leaving the meeting, Cornell apologized.

"Clearly, I had no intent to be racially discriminatory to anybody, and I apologize for offense it would have created. That was certainly not in my heart or my mind," Cornell said.

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On Thrusday, DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis sent Channel 2 Action News a statement saying in part, "Mr. Cornell has explained that his statement was not intended to be racially offensive and, given that he has no record of racial insensitivity, I believe him. 

"Nonetheless, he has received counseling regarding terms that have historical negative connotations and the perception by some that his statement could be received in a manner other than what he intended.

"Mr. Cornell has apologized to his co-workers, the community and to me, and I have accepted his apology and believe that no further action is required at this time.”


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