GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - A surveillance camera at Gautier city hall captured a confrontation between a visibly upset Mayor Tommy Fortenberry and police Sgt Jim Cazzell. Then the verbal turned physical.
Resident Casey Vaughn heard about the incident and obtained the video through a public records request, then posted it on Facebook. (Click here to see the video posting.)
"It concerns me because his leadership skills [are] obviously not good for the citizens or the future leaders of our community, and we basically have lost confidence," Vaughan said.
Eddie Williams is the chief of police. He said the video confrontation has been taken out of context.
"You have a nine or ten minute video and you're only getting 30 seconds of it," Chief Williams said. "I could go through and clip bits and pieces of tons of video and make it look like I wanted it to."
What the chief is referring to is video from another camera in city hall. It shows the officer and the mayor walking to another room. They talk and then end up shaking hands and hugging each other.
One of the reasons Casey Vaughan did what he did is that he feels the mayor received preferential treatment in this incident. He said any ordinary citizen would have been placed under immediate arrest. However, the city's police chief said that's not necessarily the case.
"The officer has discretion on how he proceeds through an incident or a call," Williams said. "You know, the ultimate goal is to render a peaceful ending. And if you can render a peaceful ending without anybody going to jail, that's an ultimate goal."
The mayor is out of town, but in a phone interview he was contrite about the incident, telling WLOX News, "My actions were inappropriate. I have apologized to the people that were there... You learn lessons in life every day. I learned a lesson to conduct myself better. This was an action unbecoming, not only a mayor, but any individual citizen."
That apology may not be enough for Vaughan.
"Maybe he should consider resigning or maybe he should make on his personal dollar, not the taxpayers' dollar, an apology to the city employees."
The mayor said he has no plans to resign and considers the incident closed. He also said he and Officer Cazzell remain close friends.