FULTON • A Fulton alderman is refusing to apologize for comments he made during a confrontation with a constituent at a city board meeting.
Ward IV Alderman Brad Chatham told his fellow members of the Fulton Board of Aldermen he believes he has no reason to apologize for his comments toward local business owner Charlie Graham during the city board’s Oct. 1 meeting. The two verbally sparred over the latter’s suggestion that the board adopt stricter guidelines for pets. Chatham and Graham are neighbors, and the disagreement between the two of them seems to stem from previous encounters.
During the Oct. 1 meeting, Chatham claimed Graham’s call for stricter pet ordinances represented a “personal issue” between himself and his neighbor, although Graham did not initially identify the alderman as the inspiration for his proposal.
On the Friday following the meeting, Graham submitted to the city a written request for Chatham’s resignation. In it, he claimed Chatham was “very aggressive” toward him during the meeting and that the alderman had attempted to use his position on the city board to intimidate and threaten him.
During last week’s meeting, Graham asked the city board to enter into a private executive session before discussing his concerns about Chatham’s comments and his call for the alderman’s resignation. But Chatham said he wanted to keep the meeting in the open.
“I’d prefer it to be in the public,” he said. “I’d like to go ahead and get this over with, whatever it is.”
Graham called Chatham a “bully” and said he should be able to come before the city’s board of aldermen to discuss his concerns. When he asked each board member individually if he had that right, they all agreed he did.
Chatham claimed Graham had been aggressive toward him during previous encounters as neighbors.
“When you came up here, I reacted,” Chatham said.
“You’re not supposed to react,” Graham said. “You’re supposed to be professional.”
Fulton Mayor Barry Childers asked Chatham if he’d be willing to apologize to Graham. Chatham declined.
“I don’t think I have anything to apologize for,” he said.
Chatham then asked Graham what, if anything, he’d like the city board to do. Graham suggested the alderman take sensitivity training.
“I think he’s a good guy, but maybe he needs a little training on sensitivity,” Graham said.
The mayor asked Chatham if he’d be willing to attend sensitivity training. Again, Chatham said, “No.”
This led to a brief back-and-forth between the Childers and the alderman. The mayor argued that Chatham should apologize for his behavior at the previous meeting.
“I think you were out of line last time,” Childers told Chatham. “I think you ought to apologize to the guy.”
But Chatham maintained his position, arguing that he wouldn’t be strong-armed by his fellow board members into doing anything.
“I’m not going to be bullied by y’all,” he said.
Regardless of what the rest of the board thinks of Chatham’s comments or behavior, there’s little they can do about it. They can’t force an alderman to step down, and removing an elected official from his or her position requires a lengthy process, including a petition signed by members of his or her electorate and approval of the governor.
Alderman Joey Steele said he believes the confrontation between the two men represents personal disagreements and should be settled outside the board room.
Fulton resident Larry Pate spoke on Chatham’s behalf, noting that the alderman has “deep roots” in the area.
“There are an awful lot of us that think an awful lot of him,” Pate said, adding that he expects Chatham to be respectful.
As for Graham’s call for stricter guidelines for loose pets, the board seemed open to adjusting city ordinances.
Graham made several proposals for ways he felt animal control could be improved, particularly in controlling the city’s cat population. These included possible limits on the number of cats a resident could own and requiring cats to have tags showing proof of ownership and vaccinations.
Although the city has leash laws, they apply solely to dogs. The city also has no way of keeping stray cats. Fulton’s small pound, located near the city’s landfill, is only equipped to house dogs.
Graham said the city’s animal control officer, Lester Jones, needs a way to hold cats.
Childers said the city needs to take action on the problems with loose cats and acknowledged it’s a concern for many residents. He said he isn’t sure what to do about it, however.
“I don’t know how to keep those cats under control,” Childers said.
The board told Graham they would continue to take his suggestions under advisement while considering ways to improve the city’s pet laws.