Georgia mayor resigns months after alleged remarks about black job candidate

Georgia mayor resigns months after alleged remarks about black job candidate
Mayor Theresa Kenerly speaks during public hearing and regular meeting at Hoschton Train Depot in Hoschton on Thursday, May 30, 2019. Mayor Theresa Kenerly and Councilman Jim Cleveland have been under fire for racist comments regarding the handling of a black candidate for city administrator in March. Last week, dozens of citizens filled out ethics complaint forms in a new attempt to force them from office. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

HOSCHTON, Ga. — Hoschton Mayor Theresa Kenerly resigned Saturday during a specially called meeting in the Jackson County, Georgia, town.

The City Council accepted her resignation effective 1 p.m. Sunday.

The resignation came just days after Councilman Jim Cleveland resigned, saying he‘d rather leave office on his own terms than face voters in a recall election next month.

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Both follow an AJC investigation launched seven months ago into claims that an African American candidate for city administrator was sidetracked by Kenerly because of his race.

According to interviews and subsequent court testimony, Kenerly held back the resume of the only black finalist for the job. She later told a council member she did so because “the city isn’t ready for this.”

Before his resignation, Cleveland defended the mayor’s conduct. “I understood where she was coming from,” he said. “I understand Theresa saying that, simply because we’re not Atlanta. Things are different here than they are 50 miles down the road.”

Members of both the Jackson County Republican and Democratic parties called for both officials to leave office.

When it became clear that neither Cleveland nor Kenerly would resign, residents organized a recall campaign to force them from office. Earlier this month, that campaign cleared its final legal hurdle when the Jackson County Board of Elections called a recall election for Jan. 14, 2020.

Kenerly has not commented on her future plans but had appealed the recall campaign to the Georgia Supreme Court.

The court declined to hear her petition.

Another resignation was on the agenda for discussion Saturday: Dale Hall, the city’s current city administrator. However, the council voted to remove Hall instead of accepting his resignation.