The school superintendent in Buford, Georgia resigned Friday after audiotape surfaced in which he is allegedly heard using racial epithets and other coarse language, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The newspaper reported that Geye Hamby was forced from the leadership of the school system in the town, which is located some 25 miles north of Atlanta, amid an ongoing racial discrimination case.
Earlier in the week, Hamby had been placed on administrative leave by the Buford school system, which is the defendant in a federal racial discrimination lawsuit filed by Mary Ingram, a 66 year-old African-American woman who had worked in various capacities for the Buford school system for nearly two decades.
According to the Journal-Constitution, Ingram had “clashed” with Hamby “after she questioned why the color gold — representing the city’s black school district before the system was integrated in 1969 — wasn’t included in the district’s green and white emblem.”
Ingram was concerned that this vital bit of heritage might otherwise fall by the wayside and had previously brought up the matter at City Hall meetings. She was one of the first African-American graduates of the local high school in Buford, which according to the 2010 Census is 65 percent white and about 14 percent black.
Relations with Hamby quickly soured after she pressed the issue. Per the Journal-Constitution:
Weeks later, when she encountered Hamby in a hallway, Ingram asked him why he didn’t speak to her. “No, I didn’t speak to you and I don’t have to and probably would never speak to you again,” Hamby said, according to the lawsuit.
Ingram said she was later called into a meeting with Hamby. He told her that while he couldn’t stop her from attending school board and city commission meetings, he wanted her to tell him in advance what she planned to say at the meetings, the lawsuit said.
Ingram refused, saying that would infringe on her right to free speech, the suit said.
According to Ingram’s lawsuit, it was at this point that she began receiving repeated write-ups and admonitions after a career of exemplary evaluations. Finally, in June of 2017, she was fired — her termination letter citing the perception that she was “disrespectful, argumentative and unfriendly and not a good fit in a school environment.”
Ingram’s lawyers, in their filings, turned the entire matter on its head when they surfaced a pair of audio recordings, allegedly of Hamby, making racist rants.
In one recording, apparently made at a construction site, a voice Ingram’s lawyers have contended is Hamby’s repeatedly uses racial slurs, referring to black construction workers as “deadbeat n****rs.” At one point, the voice alleged to be Hamby’s says, “Fuck that n****r. I kill these…damn — shoot that motherf****r if they let me.”
Hamby’s lawyers at first denied that the voice on the recording was that of the former superintendent, or that Hamby had a habit of using racist language. However, Ingram’s attorney, Atlanta lawyer Ed Buckley, has since alleged that school board chair and city commissioner Phillip Beard was present at the time of the recordings, and witnessed Hamby’s rant first hand. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:
When asked Friday why he’s now saying Beard was the other person on the recording, Buckley said, “A number of people who know Mr. Beard have identified the other voice in the recording as his.”
Buckley added, “If Mr. Beard was present during this racist rant and failed to take action to remove Mr. Hamby as superintendent or inform other school board members, or the city commission for that matter, then he was derelict in his duty. It also indicates to me the school board was at least on notice with respect to its superintendent saying those things.”
On the recording, the voice said to be Hamby’s says, “And then they had a damn attitude when Phillip spoke to them,” and “I know Phillip told two of the n****rs to get off the damn job site.”
Sometime after Ingram’s lawyer leveled this contention, Hamby formally resigned. In his resignation letter, he writes: “My sincere apologies for any actions that may have created adversity for this community and the Buford School District. Thank you for your many years of tremendous support and leadership.”
Michael Harriot of the Root notes that 46% of students enrolled at Buford City Schools are ethnic minorities. The entire school board is white.