Tommy Hunter, the District 3 leader who recently called U.S. Rep. John Lewis a racist pig on Facebook, listens during a Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners public hearing on Feb. 28, 2017, in Lawrenceville. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Hunter threatens suit, demands $5 million over ‘racist pig’ punishment

The Gwinnett County commissioner reprimanded after calling Congressman John Lewis a “racist pig” on Facebook is threatening a federal lawsuit — and demanding $5 million — over the punishment he received.

Commissioner Tommy Hunter wrote his controversial posts about Lewis, a civil rights icon and United States representative from Atlanta, on Jan. 14, 2017, amid a public war of words between Lewis and then-president elect Donald Trump. Hunter’s commission colleagues handed him a corresponding public reprimand in June, about two weeks after the county’s first-ever ethics board recommended such an action

MORE13 controversial Facebook posts from Gwinnett Commissioner Tommy Hunter

Hunter’s attorney has already challenged the constitutionality of that ethics board — and is now threatening to sue Hunter’s fellow commissioners in both their official and individual capacities.

In a previously unreported document sent to Gwinnett County on Nov. 15, Hunter attorney Dwight Thomas asks for “not less than” $5 million in compensation for what he called the board’s “effort to restrain, chill, and otherwise curtail the free speech” of his client. 

Thomas’ ante litem notice, a document required to be submitted before filing litigation against a government, claims the actions of the county’s ethics board and the subsequently issued reprimand violated Hunter’s First, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. 

“The reason for the financial demand is clear,” Hunter’s consultant and spokesman, Seth Weathers, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They have permanently damaged Mr. Hunter’s future employment opportunities.”

A Gwinnett spokesman declined to comment on the would-be lawsuit, but an attorney representing the county filed a response to Thomas’ notice on Nov. 30. 

In the strongly worded, six-page response, attorney Ken Jarrard called each of Thomas’ claims to be meritless and said any lawsuit would be “vigorously defended by Gwinnett County.”

Weathers said a lawsuit is still planned but, as of Thursday, nearly two months after the ante litem notice was sent, no federal litigation had actually been filed. 

Hunter suffered a heart attack in late December but his recovery is going “well,” Weathers said. 

Tommy Hunter is suing all his colleagues, the county and the county ethics board following his public reprimand for controversial comments he posted on Facebook.

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