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‘Ghetto bitch *****’?  ‘Pedophile’?  Heated exchange between Savannah aldermen caught on video


The long-simmering animosity between two Savannah City Council members turned ugly earlier this month, as Alderman Kurtis Purtee and Alderman Kesha Gibson-Carter traded vulgar insults during an exchange outside the hall advice.

Purtee called Gibson-Carter a “ghetto b****” in response to her accusing him of being a “child predator and pedophile.” Purtee is an openly gay white man while Gibson-Carter is a black woman.

The argument took place after the Sept. 8 council meeting and was recorded on a body camera worn by a Savannah police officer who witnessed the argument. Body camera footage was obtained using the Georgia Open Records Act.

Warning: The video below contains strong language that readers may find offensive.

Previously: Kesha Gibson-Carter reprimanded for calling another Savannah council member a racist

Past incidents: Savannah City Council splits as Kesha Gibson-Carter is removed as president for calling her peers ‘racists’

Learn more about Gibson-Carter: Savannah Alderman Kesha Gibson-Carter ‘not inclined’ to participate in city manager search

Purtee admitted to using the slur “ghetto b*****” in a phone interview earlier this week. Contacted about the incident on Thursday, Gibson-Carter shared a letter of complaint she sent to Georgia Southern University President Kyle Marrero, which listed her grievances with Purtee, a GSU police captain.

Purtee and Gibson-Carter have an acrimonious history, with Purtee having twice filed ethics complaints against Gibson-Carter. He frequently tells her to “shut up” during the tense moments of council meetings.

Alderman Kurtis Purtee testifies at the Ethics Committee meeting to hear complaints with Alderman Kesha Gibson-Carter.

Reached to comment on the name-calling incident, Gibson-Carter responded with an email that read in part, “It is unfortunate that I continue to have to respond to issues related to attacks on my person. I would prefer to use the space in your article to address the most pressing issues facing our community; such as rising crime, poverty, forced displacement, homelessness and property taxes. Instead, I am continually attacked in council and attacks are generally ignored by the mayor and the media.”

What sparked the controversy?

After the Sept. 8 meeting, Gibson-Carter was speaking to a constituent outside the council chamber. Purtee says he approached the two to add to the conversation, and Gibson-Carter fired him, calling him “boy,” which he found offensive.

The voter “expressed that she was not interested in talking to him. I then asked her not to tell him, as she was angry with him and the staff,” Gibson-Carter said via email. .

Purtee says he then called Gibson-Carter a “ghetto b****”.

‘Ghetto bitch *****’?  ‘Pedophile’?  Heated exchange between Savannah aldermen caught on video

Kesha Gibson Carter

Purtee said the voter Gibson-Carter was speaking with was one of his District 5 residents. According to Purtee, the voter had come to address a property issue but was turned away because the issue was not on the meeting agenda. Purtee said he was aware of the property and a planned project for the site and wanted to share information.

Purtee said Gibson-Carter confronted him, called him “boy” twice, and told him to “go somewhere else.” She then commented that he was a “child predator and paedophile”.

“The way she was dismissive and called me ‘boy’ twice, when I went there to try and help talk to this lady, that kind of, that kind of me turned me off,” Purtee said. “And then her calling me a child predator and a pedophile, it pissed me off right away.”

‘Ghetto bitch *****’?  ‘Pedophile’?  Heated exchange between Savannah aldermen caught on video

Kurtis Purtee

Gibson-Carter said Purtee’s “ghetto b****” comment was of particular concern, since Purtee is a police officer and trained in de-escalation.

“Using the term ‘ghetto’ makes the encounter downright racist. And as a female leader, I’m not letting that go,” Gibson-Carter said in her email. “Kurtis Purtee works at a university with black people and women. He wears a badge and a gun and has powers of arrest. That’s dangerous power for someone who looks down on women and African Americans .”

Purtee said he had to call on his de-escalation training during the interaction, noting, “I had to center myself there for a minute because I thought, let’s go.”

What does the body camera video show?

The aftermath of the incident was captured by the police officer’s body camera. The first few seconds are muted, but footage shows Purtee talking to Gibson-Carter outside the council chambers on the second floor of City Hall, with the officer standing between them.

As the camera faces Purtee, the officer reactivates the body camera around the 30 second mark. The first words heard are Purtee saying, “She treats the employees like crap all the time. I’ll be happy when she’s gone.”

Gibson-Carter, holding his phone in a filming position, tells Purtee “let’s go live”. Gibson-Carter frequently hosts live streams on its Facebook page. Purtee then walks away and Gibson-Carter says, “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

‘Ghetto bitch *****’?  ‘Pedophile’?  Heated exchange between Savannah aldermen caught on video

Following a Sept. 8 interaction between Savannah board members Kurtis Purtee and Kesha Gibson-Carter, in which Purtee calls her a “ghetto b****.”

Gibson-Carter then points, phone in hand, to someone off-screen and says, “I guess that makes you one too, because you all look alike,” before asking the officer if the interaction was recorded on the body camera.

“Did you film that? He called me a ghetto bitch? Do you understand?” Gibson-Carter says, telling another person outside of the camera’s line of sight, “He called me ghetto b****.”

The recording also shows Deputy City Manager Heath Lloyd talking to the woman whom Gibson-Carter and Purtee were trying to answer.

After: Alderman Kesha Gibson-Carter charged with ‘vulgar blasphemy’ and ‘public misinformation’ in ethics complaint filed by Savannah council member

After: Ethics committee: Alderman of Savannah violated ethics ordinance

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Gibson-Carter then said to the officer recording the body camera footage, “You know what? I feel sorry for you. Just a real bummer. Just a real bummer, and I hate that things have to go the way they are. I really do.”

“You know what he does on a daily basis. And it’s a shame that you have this job,” says Gibson-Carter, still directed towards the policeman at the town hall.

‘Ghetto bitch *****’?  ‘Pedophile’?  Heated exchange between Savannah aldermen caught on video

At-Large Aldermen Alicia Miller Blakely and Kesha Gibson Carter watch as the Savannah City Council discuss details of the city’s memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Attorney’s Office during Thursday’s city council meeting. Both Blakely and Carter voted against the measure.

What is the story between the two board members?

The term of the current council has been marked by similar turbulence. In December 2021, the City Council voted to reprimand Gibson-Carter by a 6-3 vote after calling Alderman Nick Palumbo a racist earlier that month.

In January 2022, Purtee presented an agenda item calling for the reconsideration of City Council officers in response to the incident between Palumbo and Gibson-Carter. At the time, Gibson-Carter served as chair of the board, a position she was chosen to fill at the first board meeting of 2020.

Purtee’s motion passed and Gibson-Carter was stripped of her title as board chair.

In August 2020, four council members, including Purtee, filed an ethics complaint against Gibson-Carter following a closed session regarding the search for a city manager.

‘Ghetto bitch *****’?  ‘Pedophile’?  Heated exchange between Savannah aldermen caught on video

Alderman Kesha Gibson-Carter speaks to the media in 2020 about an ethics complaint filed against her.

In her complaint, Purtee stated a number of ethical issues, including that Gibson-Carter used “vulgar profanity” toward board members during closed sessions, physically threatened another board member, made allegations public of unethical practices at City Hall without proof, conveyed misinformation to the public, spoke aggressively verbally and intimidated other council members and the mayor, harassed the city manager’s recruiter and refused to be part of the city manager’s hiring process.

A three-member ethics committee found that Gibson-Carter violated the city’s code of ethics during a hearing on October 29, 2020.

Will Peebles is the City Council and County Commission reporter for Savannah Morning News, covering local decisions in Savannah and Chatham County. He can be reached at wpeebles@savannahnow.com or on Twitter @willpeeblesSMN

Drew Favakeh is the public safety reporter for Savannah Morning News. You can reach him at AFavakeh@savannahnow.com.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Savannah Alderman directs derogatory insults at fellow council member

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