CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) — The Racial Justice Network claimed Charleston County Administrator Bill Tuten charged toward them during a meeting held at the Charleston County Government Building on Wednesday.
Now, they said they want Tuten to resign or be fired.
“It was a scene like I’ve never experienced before in my 40 years of civil rights,” Racial Justice Network founder Elder James Johnson said.
The activists shared their account of that meeting during a press conference Friday. The group said the meeting with the county administrator was about allegations made by county employees of workplace discrimination.
“We had several employees that came to this office and complained about promotion and hiring,” Johnson said. “They were Black employees. They came here and they felt that they were left out.”
The organization claimed during the meeting that their questions about the allegations were met with resistance from Tuten.
“We just wanted to go to Mr. Tuten and have a peaceful conversation,” Charleston Chapter President of the Racial Justice Network Andrea Manigault said. “And ask why these things were happening, but we were never able to get that far to get answers.”
Johnson said he posed a direct question to the administrator after he claimed Tuten stated he didn’t want anything to do with his organization.
“The conversation with him and I was, ‘Mr. Bill Tuten, are you racist?’” Johnson said. “So, what he did, he slammed his pad on the table and got up from the chair and charged toward [me].”
They said had it not been for County Councilman Henry Darby intervening, they believe it would have resulted in a physical altercation.
“I was so distraught by what I had witnessed,” Manigault said. “I went home that night and I could not stop thinking about it.”
Now, the group wants action to be taken against Tuten.
“We are asking for him to resign,” Johnson said, “or be fired.”
Charleston County Government’s Public Information Officer Kelsey Barlow responded to the claims in a statement, which can be found below:
“On Wednesday, Bill Tuten, Chairman Pryor, and County Attorney Natalie Ham were poised to hear concerns from Elder Johnson and his colleagues to discuss possible issues in one of the county’s departments. Upon arrival, Elder Johnson then refused to attend the meeting if Chairman Pryor was present.
Nonetheless, finding it important to hear the concerns, Mr. Tuten continued the meeting along with the County Attorney. He quickly learned that the concerns were regarding a matter that had previously been raised, thoroughly reviewed, internally investigated and factual data negated each of the concerns.
Wednesday’s meeting was offered as an opportunity for constructive and civil dialogue. Unfortunately, no opportunity was given for the facts to be shared. On serious matters, often emotions can run high. Threats of lawsuits and press conferences were yielded. Voices were raised, however there were no threats and no physical contact occurred. Any suggestions that Mr. Tuten threatened Mr. Johnson is an outrageous misrepresentation of the truth and yet another example of creating controversy where there is none. The County will not be blackmailed, extorted, or maligned, and we will not personally allow ourselves to be the subject to falsehoods and innuendo. The County respects the community it serves, it’s employees and its mission.”