A crowd gathered in the parking lot outside the Demorest Municipal Building Tuesday night waiting for something that never happened.
Their weeks-long call for Demorest City Manager Kim Simonds to resign was ignored. She did not quit and the city council did not fire her.
After striking apologetic tones at last week’s meeting, councilmen Dr. John Hendrix and Nathan Davis both sidestepped the issue of whether they would step down. In fact, Davis, who admitted to holding unauthorized meetings with Simonds and Hendrix in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act, became downright defiant. He said nothing about the actions that sparked the protests and instead lashed out at the people who were gathered in the parking lot outside the meeting hall.
“You got people out there like a mob, like an angry mob, and they’re doing nothing but being disruptive to this city,” Davis said in a raised voice.
“It’s like a WWE event,” chimed in Councilman Sean Moore.
At one point, Davis denied ever offering to resign. He forcefully called it a “lie”, directing his comments to Demorest resident Jennifer Austin who is married to the mayor.
Before it disintegrated into political fireworks, the meeting started out calmly. It began with the formal swearing-in of Police Chief Robin Krockum who was abruptly fired by Simonds on April 16. The council reinstated him after his lawyer threatened them with a federal lawsuit.
Council also managed to squeeze in a vote on the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration. Due to the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, the council voted to limit this year’s event to fireworks so that people can safely social distance in their cars. Mayor Rick Austin says he’d still like to have a parade and left the door open to the possibility.
“If COVID-19 lightens up and we get some relaxation of the six-foot social distancing rule or those types of things I’d love to be able to throw a parade together and have everybody out and have a parade,” Austin says. “I think our community deserves a really nice big fireworks show and I think that’s the least we can do.”
Executive session and recall
After hearing public comments and tending to some business, the council retreated into executive session for nearly an hour. When they returned to the meeting room the only thing they discussed was tabling the legal settlement with Krockum until they had time to read over it.
Whether the council discussed Simonds’ employment during its executive session is not known, but after the meeting, Councilman Sean Moore gave a good indication where he stands. Moore, who is expected to resign soon from the council because he’s moving, seemed to offer his support to Simonds. “We all make mistakes. I hope that we learn from them and move on. I just thank the good Lord that Jesus wasn’t as judgemental on me.” Asked by Now Habersham if Simonds will be allowed to stay on in her job Moore replied, “That’s her decision.”
As for Davis and Hendrix, angry voters may decide their fate. As night fell on Demorest Tuesday, several dozen protesters stood in the parking lot outside the municipal building laying out their plans to recall them.