The Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners has denounced District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Milele’s social media activity, an action Milele is criticizing.
During Monday’s meeting of the board, Vice Mayor Ray Justice introduced a resolution directed at “racially motivated and divisive comments” posted by Milele on Twitter.
The resolution also opposes comments targeting individuals based on their race, sex, and religion made either on social media or in public.
The commission voted 3-1 is support of Justice’s resolution, with Milele voting “no.” District 2 Commissioner Bill Trivett did not vote after leaving the meeting early.
Justice’s resolution came after Milele’s posts from her now-suspended Twitter account in which he said took aim at Muslims, COVID-19, and George Floyd.
He presented screenshots of those posts in Monday’s meeting after receiving them from a constituent. Justice said he did so because of a “moral obligation.”
Milele disputed Justice’s characterization of her tweets.
“There is nothing racist in here, and for you to come in here and throw this on the table without an ethics investigation is just … I can tell you’ve been here a long time and you’re used to getting your way,” Milele said. “You’re used to the public not knowing what you’re doing.”
City Attorney Gino Marchetti said Mt. Juliet’s ethics policy does not specifically address the social media statements Justice brought forward to this meeting.
“Milele’s posts were so unfortunate and ill-advised,” said Justice. “Everybody needs to realize that perception is reality, know how others might look at something like this, apologize and move forward.”
In August 2018, the Wilson County Commission dealt with a similar controversy over “racially motivated and divisive comments” when 14 commissioners voted on a resolution to condemn them while 10 abstained.
That vote addressed District 1 Commissioner Robert Fields’ Facebook post over his opponent Tim Roehler’s interracial family during an election campaign.
Justice said the city commission used WCC’s resolution as a template for their own.
“Because the county commissioners handled this awkward situation as well as it could been handled, we felt it would be a path forward for us to condemn racism in any form,” said Justice.
“It is important that we send our message to people that we are a welcoming community, and that Milele’s Twitter posts is not what the city of Mt. Juliet is about,” said Mayor James Maness. “We want our board members to conduct themselves through higher standards and expect the same thing for other people who call this city home.”
In this resolution, the commission “hereby express our opposition, and do not condone, any racially motivated, divisive and reprehensible comments made by anyone, including candidates for elected positions which are designed to serve all of the people of this great city.”
It also addresses comments made “appear to be racially motivated, divisive, and reprehensible,” yet does not name or call out any individual.
The resolution also provides an option dealing with racially motivated comments by speaking out in opposition.
“I’m asking for our commission to address the social media aspects of ethical behavior in a formal manner,” said Justice. “This is the time for our city attorney and our appointed ethics committee to research and develop an amendment to anything of this nature that might be embarrassing to Mt. Juliet.”
Meanwhile, Milele continues to speak out against the resolution and Justice. In a post on her Facebook page, she wrote: “I also say what a waste of taxpayer time and money all this is, when we should be doing city business. VM (Vice Mayor Ray Justice) had no case for an ethics complaint as verified by city attorney. During my comments at the BOC meeting on August 23rd, I will show how VM is in violation of the city code of ethics. All of this personal vendetta and retaliation needs to end. We have work to do. This is not what we get elected for and the BOC meeting is no place for childish games.”