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Mayor expresses regret that restroom enforcement discussion even happened

Mayor expresses regret that restroom enforcement discussion even happened

Mayor expresses regret that restroom enforcement discussion even happened

Statesboro Mayor Jan Moore

At Tuesday’s Statesboro City Council meeting, Mayor Jan Moore said a discussion at the previous meeting about enforcement of a public restroom requirement for businesses should not have taken place.

During the meeting on Jan. 22, Councilman Gary Lewis had identified specific businesses where he said he had been told that no restroom was available to the public. Without mentioning that Lewis had referred to “convenience stores operated by the Indians or whatever we’re going to call them,” Moore read a prepared statement expressing regret.

“At our last City Council meeting the topic of access to restrooms within private businesses was brought before council during the ‘other business of council’ portion of the meeting,” Moore said. “Let me say that I feel it should not have been, as access to toilet facilities is something that can be handled through the enforcement of an ordinance by the appropriate governing authority, be it the city, county or health department.

“This body is charged with certain duties, as is the city, and I regret that the discussion was even held,” she continued. “It was most unfortunate, and as the facilitator of these meetings, I pledge to try to keep this body’s focus on the business that it has been charged with carrying out.

“I will also pledge that as a city government, we will act appropriately and equally in the enforcement of any ordinance which we are charged to uphold,” Moore concluded.

Asked to clarify later, Moore said she had not meant that the council should never discuss enforcement issues.

“I wouldn’t make a broad statement like that,” she said. “I would just say in this particular instance concerns could have been handled through traditional channels of code enforcement within the city.”

Moore added that she had stated her opinion, which might not be everyone’s.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Lewis did not comment on his remarks from the previous meeting or the mayor’s statement. Approached afterward, he indicated he agreed with Moore’s statement.

“I think the mayor handled it fine,” Lewis said. “It should be handled like what she said, because it got out of control.”

Reacting to an editorial and a reader’s letter to the editor in the Statesboro Herald, Lewis said, “Let the record note that I will not resign and I will not apologize.”

At the Jan. 22 meeting, City Manager Frank Parker first introduced the subject of public restrooms, saying it had come to his attention that some businesses were not offering them and that the city would investigate. Lewis then made his comments about Indian-owned convenience stores, but Parker said the city would not single out any group and would check all stores.

The first half of Tuesday morning’s council meeting, which lasted less than an hour, was devoted to presentation of the Department of Public Safety’s annual awards to police officers.

Later, but before making her own statement, Moore announced that Lewis had approached her before the meeting and wanted to make some public comments. Indicating that the victim of an armed robbery and assault at a Statesboro residence Saturday night was someone he knows, Lewis praised the police for good work in making a quick arrest. The newspaper on Tuesday reported the crime and arrest of suspect Charles Clifton, 50, but is not identifying the victim because of a policy of not identifying victims of sex crimes. One of the seven charges against Clifton is sexual battery.

“I just want to appreciate and thank our Police Department here in the city of Statesboro for a fine job. …” Lewis said. “She was held I think maybe an hour, an hour and a half before she could break away. She did get out with some injuries. But thanks to our fine men in blue, our detectives, he was apprehended within 30 or 35 minutes. And I say thank you.”

Alcohol ordinance
As part of its consent agenda — a group of items approved as a single vote — the council issued a “notification of intent to amend Chapter 6 of the Statesboro Code of Ordinances (Alcoholic Beverages) in its entirety.” But so far, no proposed revision of the ordinance has been made public.

Councilman John Riggs, who was absent Tuesday, previously asked for a work session to discuss changing the alcoholic beverage ordinance. In an interview last week, Riggs said that City Attorney Alvin Leaphart had sent council members proposed changes, which Riggs said will eliminate contradictions and make the ordinance easier to enforce.

The notification, Leaphart said Tuesday, is in preparation for the work session. This hasn’t been scheduled, but council members said it might be included in the next regular meeting. Asked after the meeting, Leaphart said the revision was not ready for release.

“We don’t have anything to release at this time,” Leaphart said. “We’ll bring it out at the work session.”

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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