HENRY COUNTY, Ga. — UPDATE: In a post to the Henry County Government Facebook page Tuesday, a county spokesperson wrote that an extensive investigation into Commissioner Clemmons found no criminal wrongdoing for posting the resident’s address.
“The Henry County Police Department launched an investigation, and in an effort to avoid a conflict of interest and to maintain transparency, the HCPD’s Criminal Investigation Division consulted with several agencies, including the GBI, the Attorney General’s office, the Henry County District Attorney, the Henry County Solicitor General’s office, and a Magistrate Judge. Investigators concluded that no criminal act occurred by Clemmons in the matter and the case has been closed,” part of the post read.
The resident’s attorney has filed a separate ethics complaint with the county and alluded to civil action this week.
An online dispute, rooted in the debate over a Confederate statue’s removal, ended with a Henry County commissioner posting a resident’s address on Facebook. It’s escalated into safety concerns, a police investigation, a formal county ethics complaint and a debate over where to draw the line in civil discourse.
Henry County police confirmed an active investigation into Commissioner Dee Clemmons’ Facebook postings. Clemmons is at the center of a complaint filed by Genie Moore, a longtime Henry County resident who sits on the board of the county’s Chamber of Commerce.
“This commissioner has put (her) home information out. She has declared and branded (her) a racist,” said Tom Kirkbride, an attorney for Moore, who is white. “Our opinion is that they only intent for that was to harass, or intimidate or encourage someone else to do that. That’s what falls into the realm of cyberstalking, cyberbullying.”
“I will continue to protect myself against the backlash that I’m catching from the removal of the monument and the removal of the confederate flags, and I think this has everything to do with that,” said Clemmons, who is Black.
Last week, the women were involved in a back-and-forth on a mutual friend’s Facebook page. It came in a thread centered around the commission’s vote on a resolution.
Earlier in the day, Clemmons introduced a resolution to remove a Confederate statue from county property in McDonough Square. The approved resolution preserves the statue and calls for the city to decide where to move it. It’s one of the final steps in a years’ long debate over removing the monument.
“This is not about destroying the statue,” Clemmons said during last week’s virtual commission meeting. “This is not about erasing history. This is about removing the statue from a county-owned property in Henry County. Removing the statue from the square.”
The same day, Moore said she began talking to a Facebook friend, who’s Black, about the debate. That Facebook friend is a mutual online friend of Moore and Clemmons.
“She (my friend) actually started saying, ‘How can we talk about this and see how we can come together and figure these things out?’ Somewhat of trying to find peace,” Moore said.
“I literally made the post that ‘I’m so glad that you know me for who I am. I love you, Boo,’ is what I said, and she came back and said, ‘I love you too.’”
Later that night, Moore said she noticed more comments about the statue removal vote and weighed in on the thread about its connection to the names in local municipalities and the discourse surrounding it. Other public postings show Moore hasn’t been sold on removing the monuments as a solution to the discourse.
“And I wasn’t meaning it in any other way other than this is history, and it’s a long, long history here, and I agreed with her. We have to find a happy medium on this,” Moore said. “We have to love each other. Why go backwards so many years?”
Moore said Clemmons had joined the thread, and she began screen grabbing the exchange when Clemmons posted Moore’s street address, noting she did not live in her district.
“Sis, this woman lives at (insert street address).. in District 3 and has NEVER VOTED FOR A BLACK PERSON IN HER LIFE. She’s not about equality or does she understand or sympathize with our struggles. I’m not sure why she’s on your page,” Clemmons wrote.
Moore responds, telling Clemmons, “I don’t want or need your power doll. God is all I need. But thank you!!”
Other screengrabs show Clemmons writing about Moore’s “pettiness,” saying she had “hatred towards her a strong black woman fighting for equality of all people.” Clemmons called the woman “absurb and idiotic,” and said Moore is “weeping in the loss of power.” One of the responses appears to be in response to Moore saying she would report Clemmons for the online dispute. Clemmons tags her friend and wrote that “these women are always afraid of black women who stand for equality and adamantly defend themselves” and that she’s “sick of the reverse psychology of racist bigotry.”
Moore said she challenged whether Clemmons actually lived in Henry County before the commissioner asked her whether she belonged to Daughters of the Confederacy.
“I said, ‘Well you have my information. You obviously divulged it to the public here on social media,’” Moore said. “If you cannot find that out, I’ll answer you directly, and I said, ‘No Ma’am I am not.’”
The thread was not publically available in its entirety Monday.
Moore said that since Clemmons posted her address, she’s been concerned about her family’s safety because she said she’s been falsely labeled as racist.
“I’m a very strong woman in this community,” Moore cried. “A lot of people know me in this community … but this is probably the weakest they’ll ever see me because I am very concerned for my family.”
“I’m concerned that somebody will come by that has an agenda that’s not going to understand the circumstances, and they’re going to come by, and they’re actually just going to come by and retaliate,” Moore added.
Kirkbride said the family has increased security around their home and moved a minor out of the house.
“They’ve also taken to having to sleep in shifts, so someone is always up,” Kirkbride said, noting he believed the post could incite someone to target Moore’s home. “Someone is always looking,” he added.
The next day, Moore filed a complaint with Henry County police. Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr confirmed with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that the department consulted the bureau in the case. There is not an active GBI investigation. But on Monday, a spokesman for Henry County police confirmed the department has an active investigation.
Kirkbride said he wants to see GBI and federal involvement for cyberstalking and harassment allegations. He filed a county ethics complaint on Clemmons for violation of oath of office and conduct. Per the county code, the complaint will be forwarded to the commissioners and county attorney, who will forward it to a hearing officer within 30 days. The hearing officer determines the merits of the complaint, deciding whether to investigate or dismiss it.
Carr reached Clemmons by phone Monday.
“Most people would say you’ve gone too far by posting her address,” Carr said. " What would you … what do say about that?”
“I would just say anyone is entitled to make a complaint or file any complaint that they want to file, and her complaint has no merit at all, and I will defend any claims she makes against me in court,” Clemmons said.
“You’re the one who’s in the position of superior responsibility and trust,” Kirkbride said. “You’re an elected official. You should act more like a professional rather than going to that level.”
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