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Athens official issues apology for council spat

By Holly Hollman 340-2445

ATHENS — A council has to debate issues, but those debates shouldn't end in spats like the one at Monday's Athens City Council meeting, Councilman Harold Wales said.

During a debate over a blasting permit request, Wales and Council President Johnny Crutcher got into an argument in which Wales slammed his fist on the table and ordered Crutcher not to talk to him like a high school boy. Crutcher told Wales he would take him outside to settle the matter.

By the end of the four-hour meeting, the two men were shaking hands. By Tuesday, they were moving past the incident and conducting city business.

The public, however, has not moved on.

The argument led to the two men receiving boxing nicknames on an Internet forum.

"Boxing on the square every Monday night featuring your local elected officials, free admission, all invited," one forum posting said.

"Taking bets. Who will win the fight, 'The Wild Eye' Wales or 'Jawbone Chasing' Crutcher?" another post said.

Citizens also made comments Tuesday and Wednesday to the men about needing boxing gloves and karate classes.

Wales said he has received numerous comments from citizens who were outraged.

"Mostly they're saying, 'You guys need to stop this, but Harold thank you for making sure that we know just how serious this issue is to our community.' "

Wales wanted to delay action on the blasting permit at Piney Creek Subdivision because he and other residents have experienced cracks in their driveways or garages, after blasting at Canebrake Subdivision. Insurance companies are trying to determine if blasting or construction issues led to the cracks, Wales said.

The council tabled the permit request until its Nov. 5 meeting.

On Wednesday, Wales asked The Daily to run a statement from him to Athens citizens. It follows:

"Issues presented before the council deserve debate. It must occur in a manner that brings respect to the council and to the people we serve.

"As has been reported, my position over the possible negative effect of blasting in my district led to a heated debate. I regret my actions and take full responsibility. I have the greatest respect for the office I hold and (I) respect all others with whom I serve.

"I will continue to represent the people of District 2 with a complete commitment to their best interest."

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