AS MUCH more serious but as yet unproven allegations of sex offenses swirl around him, Savannah Alderman Tony Thomas now finds himself the subject of an ethics complaint filed against him by two citizens in his district.
The complaint filed late last week by Debra Kujawa and Karen Thompson focuses on a series of increasingly inflammatory, and they allege threatening, posts made about them by Thomas on his personal Facebook page during last year’s contentious election season.
Thomas has been an avid user of Facebook for years and has never shied away from speaking his mind online, a trait many of his constituents value.
But Kujawa and Thompson say this past election season brought out behavior in their alderman that they simply cannot tolerate any longer.
“Enough is enough. At some point it gets to where you just have to send a message that you’ve put up with enough and now it has to stop,” says Kujawa. “It’s just not right for an elected official to constantly get away with behavior like this and not be held accountable by somebody.”
The complaint features page after page of printed-out screenshots of various posts by Thomas.
In posts, Thomas refers to Kujawa and Thompson as “white bitches,” “ho’s,” skanks,” and “misfits.”
Kujawa, who is married to a retired police officer, seems to come in for the worst of it: Thomas calls her a “lying skank” and a “hag.”
In the majority of posts, he identifies Kujawa and Thompson by their names. Kujawa and Thompson say they never posted any comments to provoke Thomas or to respond to him.
The complaint alleges that Thomas is likely retaliating against the pair for supporting one of his unsuccessful challengers this past election, David Self— who, to be fair, is no stranger to writing strongly worded Facebook posts himself.
Kujawa and Thompson write that “While we the plaintiffs admit to being very passionate and supportive of a challenger, our energy was focused on positive support of Mr. Self and not through mudslinging or negative accusations towards Mr. Thomas.”
When contacted for comment, Alderman Thomas said he’d prefer to withhold comment until he’d had an opportunity to fully go over the complaint and its charges.
Aside from the misogynistic epithets, Kujawa and Thompson point out that some of Thomas’s posts about them seem to be voicing some kind of threat.
And that possible threat, Kujawa and Thompson say, is why they felt the need to compile a paper trail.
In one post, Thomas says, “Debra... is a lying skank that y’all are going to love getting (to) know on here. Going to expose her starting this week.”
In another, Thomas seems to be threatening legal action against their assets:
“It was two white bitches in my case but hey, they got houses right now. Debra and Karen to start.”
Most disturbingly, Thomas embarked on a series of posts specifically identifying Kujawa with an image of The Grinch, as voiced by Jim Carrey in that 2000 film.
In one, Thomas writes, “I’m serious y’all. You have to see this little woman. This picture actually warms her up.”
In another he writes, “When a hater keeps looking at you. Bitch we can square up right now.”
The most disturbing of the “Grinch” posts says:
“Ole Debra down at (Rose Dhu) is really getting desperate. This rainy day has her all gloomy... haha. Somebody please go appease her.”
Of that latter post, Kujawa, who runs her own PR firm, says, “In marketing, we say that’s a ‘call to action.’”
As for what “appeases” means, Kujawa’s not sure but asks:
“Is it a sexual reference? Does it mean come have sex with me, or come rape me? Does it mean send someone over to my house to do something violent to me? It’s vague but also clearly threatening.”
The offical Ethics Ordinance for the City of Savannah says it is “intended to ensure that elected officials... treat all people fairly... use the power of our position for the wellbeing of our constituents,” and “create an environment of honesty, openness, and integrity.”
Kujawa says she has consulted an attorney about a possible defamation suit against Thomas, but decided against it.
“You have to be able to prove specific monetary harm,” she explains.
“I’m in marketing. How am I going to prove that a potential client didn’t pick up the phone to call me? Or that ten years from now someone will decide not to employ me because of something Tony Thomas wrote?”
In the complaint, Kujawa tells of meeting a prominent local businessman.
Kujawa says as she shook his hand, the businessman said, “The Debra Kujawa Tony Thomas has been beating up on Facebook all day?”
“Can you imagine how humiliating that was for me?” Kujawa asks. “For that to be his first impression of me, and for that to be literally his first words to me?”
But Kujawa says it’s not money she’s interested in, but holding the alderman accountable— hence the official ethics complaint by she and Thompson on behalf of not only themselves, but the entire Sixth District.
They say their ultimate goal, besides getting Thomas to stop the offensive posts, is to encourage an act of censure and/or reprimand of Thomas by the Mayor and Council.
In the pages of posts submitted to the Clerk of Council’s office with the complaint, Kujawa and Thompson include posts by some of Thomas’s own constituents practically begging him to stop.
Says one: “Let it go. Promote what you care about instead. Go to yoga Tony Thomas.”
Thomas responds: “Nope. Let those ho’s go as far as I will.”
Another constituent says: “I know everyone has an opinion... but you as an elected official should let your lawyers handle it.”
Thomas responds: “Oh both them and I are going to handle a few of these scumbags.”
Up until recently, Thomas had thousands of Friends on his personal page.
However, Kujawa and Thompson say that after election season Thomas began culling his Friends list and dramatically limiting public viewing ability.
On his page, Thomas referred to that process as “stomping some roaches.”