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See clash with mayor that got Washington councilman arrested

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 12:32 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A video shows the encounter that that got a Washington City Council member arrested and charged with battery for pushing the mayor in the chest with his fingers.

The Oct. 6 incident led to a charge of “simple battery” against Councilman Nathaniel Cullars, spurring an arrest warrant, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The agency called him Tuesday and asked if he’d turn himself in at the sheriff’s office. He did so, was arrested, paid his $3,000 bail and was on his way in 15 or 20 minutes, he said.

Cullars says the incident in question happened during a tense conversation with Mayor Bill DeGolian.

The encounter was captured in a video that the mayor gave to News 12. You can watch it above.

In the mayor’s view, it was a physical assault. In the councilman’s view, he was pushing the mayor back so they could stay socially distanced.

Cullars said the confrontation occurred after he’d come by City Hall and by chance found the mayor holding a preliminary meeting with someone about a financial issue. Cullars said it involved a land purchase, while the mayor called it an economic development meeting with real estate agents to discuss ways to attract housing developers.

In any case, Cullars believes that’s overstepping the bounds of the mayoral post he says is largely ceremonial under city law. He expressed that view to the mayor.

Nathaniel Cullars' booking photo.
Nathaniel Cullars' booking photo.(WRDW)

The mayor, on the other hand, says it wasn’t a public meeting, and that’s why council members weren’t invited.

The contentious conversation continued into the hallway.

The mayor says the finger-pushing that led to the charge against Cullars was the second of two that concern him. He said Cullars also jostled him with his right shoulder, “causing me to lose my balance and fall against a chair.”

Cullars denies having anything to do with the mayor falling into the chair.

“It wasn’t a push or anything like that,” he said, adding that the mayor stumbled “just because he was coming up on me.”

In an ethics complaint against Cullars, the mayor says that “since I am above the age of 65, Councilman Cullars’ intentional battery against me is considered under the law of Georgia to be a ‘misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.’”

The ethics complain isn’t the mayor’s first against Cullars.

An earlier one largely focuses on portrait photos that were to taken of city leaders on May 10 for display at City Hall.

“City Council members were asked by the mayor to dress nicely and appropriately and that everyone involved cooperated and wore professional, neutral clothing for these portrait photographs except for Councilman Nate Cullars,” the complaint states.

Instead, “Councilman Cullars wore a tee shirt that had a large photograph of George Floyd on the front with the words: ‘I can’t breathe,’” the mayor’s complaint states.

When the mayor expressed a desire for the photo to be taken in other clothing, the mayor claims that he was then on the receiving end of a “disrespectful” tirade with a “lack of decorum” and “impure speech” — something that also falls under his definition of an assault.

“By such conduct, Councilman Cullars assaulted Complainant,” the mayor’s complaint states.

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