Portrait's removal causes hard feelings in Russell Co.

Russell County commission race issues
Published: Oct. 21, 2014 at 3:16 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 22, 2014 at 8:12 AM EDT
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Commissioner Ronnie Reed says it's his right as an elected official to hang his picture in the public building. Despite opposition for it, the commission chairwoman says there is no rule in place to prevent him from doing so.

For the first time in recent history, Reed paid for and hung a picture of himself in the first floor lobby of the Russell County Judicial Center.

"And I think I have the right to put it up. I'm an elected official and I want my people in my district knowing who I am -- who their representatives are," Reed explained. 

Prior to his picture, only a group photo of the current commissioners hung in that spot. This urged other commissioners to push for Reed's picture to come down. Russell County Commission Chair Peggy Martin said no rule exists to mandate that.

"We don't have a policy as such," Martin said. "I think you might say we had a procedure in the past."

The discussion was brought up in Monday night's commission work session, where talks of drafting a policy for these situations began. Reed called those racially motivated.

"We had one man went to the sheriff's department [and] tried to get the sheriff to go up there and take my picture down; which he would have been violating the ethics law if he did," Reed explained. 

Martin says the issue isn't race based, but assured the 'misunderstanding' could have been avoided had it been handled differently.

"I think as a commissioner and as the commission body, we need to be forth right and air our views to one another in a civil way," Martin said. 

Martin added that drafting a picture policy could keep the commission pushing forward, while avoiding this same situation in the future regardless of race.

"After all, we were elected by the public, by the people, and we serve all the people," assured Martin.

Reed says his picture replaced a missing portrait of President Barack Obama, but claims the racial allegations are a result of white commissioners calling for the removal of the photo. The issue has been turned over to the county's attorney, Kenneth Funderburk, to come up with a list of items to be voted on as options for a picture protocol for the commission going forward.

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