A candidate running for mayor of the newly formed city of Stonecrest says he was treated unfairly during a recent forum.
Charles Hill said he was “accosted on stage” by State Representative and former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones during a Feb. 11 forum.
Hill, a graduate student at Yale University, said he was stopped from talking about issues regarding fellow candidate Jason Lary.
“The debate started very spirited. I began to talk about Jason Lary and his connection to (developer) Vaughn Irons and almost immediately I was stopped by Vernon Jones,” Hill said. “Vernon runs up on stage and acts like he’s about to do something to me and his physical demeanor was almost like he was about to jump on me. He just started yelling and screaming at me.”
During a phone conversation with The Champion, Jones suggested a reporter should interview the other candidates in attendance to determine if Hill was treated unfairly.
Representative Pam Stephenson, who co-moderated the event, said Hill was treated fairly as were the other candidates that were in attendance. According to her, the issue was that Hill wanted to distribute his information during the speaking portion of the forum.
“When we started the meeting, we said that this wasn’t going to be personal. We were going to ask the questions and we were not going to have anything disparaging,” Stephenson said. “When we got to the mayors’ race, Mr. Hill wanted to distribute his papers during his speech, however, we could not allow that.”
Stephenson said Hill could pass out his papers after the forum.
“You can’t distribute the papers during the forum,” She said. “Afterwards, Hill gave out his information that he had and no one said anything.”
Hill said he was able to discuss the information he had at the forum, which included bankruptcy filings by Lary—one dated in December of 2008 and the other March of 2010.
“They tried to shut me down,” said Hill. “I was talking about things that I thought was important for the people to hear. It was clear that they were biased. How can you be a candidate for mayor and you’re in debt? It just really seems like in a lot of these forums they’re unwilling to allow me to speak on Lary’s bankruptcy.”
Lary said Hill’s behavior during the forum was “childish” and stated that Hill has been able to speak freely.
“I completely disagree,” said Lary when asked if he felt Hill was treated unfairly. “They let him bring up everything he wanted to bring up. (The bankruptcies) are personal information and if he wanted to expose them he could have talked to me, but that’s the type of campaign he’s running.”
Hill said if residents in Stonecrest, who will decide among Hill, Lary and Douglas Favors for mayor in an election March 21, vote for Lary it would “be a vote for Irons.”
Irons was recently named as co-chair to the City of Stonecrest Community Committee. Hill said Irons has had unethical business practices in the past.
The Champion called the offices of Irons but did not receive a return call as of press time.
“Charles Hill is a child that lives at home. He is a professional student with no real-life experience,” Lary said. “Vaughn Irons just brought a $200 million project to the area, so who would you listen to?”
Recently Irons, along with other business leaders and DeKalb officials, announced a sports complex would be coming to the area. According to developers, the complex could bring in $197 million in economic impact.
Lary said the complex, located across from Stonecrest mall and called Atlanta Sports City, is what the city needs to move forward along with a place for residents to “live, work, play, worship, shop and pursue education.”
“I’m continuing the people’s vision. I didn’t do this alone. We spent years finding out what would be successful for us and I’m going to continue the vision of the people,” Lary said. “Charles Hill didn’t lift one finger to help with this initiative. He didn’t invest time, money or attend the public forums. He and his daddy woke up one day and decided they wanted to run for mayor.”
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