E-mail prompts call for resignation

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News 12 First at Five, September 4, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---It's Augusta's latest battle over race and politics. A memo over downtown development and demographics quickly turns into a heated exchange.

"I'm sorry that I didn't phrase this thing properly," Augusta Housing Authority member Dave Barbee said today.

He was apologizing for a private email gone public. Talking to two local developers, he mentioned the Housing Authority trying to close Gilbert Manor so the Medical College of Georgia can expand. It's a move Barbee said in the email would make "the downtown whiter with moving 200 Whites in and moving 500 Blacks out."

Barbee said today, "My email was taken totally out of context."

Jessica Wales says she's lived in low income housing most of her life. She calls Barbee's comments upsetting. "It makes me kinda upset and nervous at the same time, because it creates a lot of racial tension."

Barbee calls this a moral issue. He says, "I am sick and tired of sitting here and warehousing the poor in one section of town. That's wrong. That's morally wrong."

In a battle of what's right and wrong things got pretty heated. Barbee said, "It's not political, it's Biblical."

But one person in the audience countered by saying, "The Bible is clear: From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. So what you said, that's what you meant."

Exactly what did Barbee mean? He says he simply wanted to promote mixed income housing: "It was talking between lines. There is other emails that's involved."

And those emails continue. Tuesday morning, those local developers sent a five paragraph response to Barbee that ended with "Please do not send me any other unsolicited e-mails."

City leaders called for his resignation. State representative Quincy Murphy says, "It is inconsistent with his public role as an appointed commission for the Augusta Housing Authority and raises concerns of criminal activity."

Mayor Copenhaver says, "I will be willing to have a conversation with him, but I still think it would be best for him to resign his position."

Barbee says, "It was a poorly worded email. It wasn't politically correct and for that I am truly, truly sorry."

As for Jessica, she says, "It's not good enough. It's not good enough."

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