'Ghetto b*****'? 'Pedophile'? Heated exchange between Savannah alderpersons caught on video

The long-simmering animosity between two members of the Savannah City Council turned ugly earlier this month when alderman Kurtis Purtee and alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter traded vulgar insults in an exchange outside of the council chambers.
Purtee called Gibson-Carter a "ghetto b****" in response to her accusing him of being a "child predator and pedophile." Purtee is a white, openly gay man while Gibson-Carter is a black woman.
The argument took place after the Sept. 8 council meeting and was recorded with a body camera worn by a Savannah police officer who witnessed the argument. Body camera footage was obtained using the Georgia Open Records Act.
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Warning: The following video contains profanity that readers may find offensive.
Before: Kesha Gibson-Carter is reprimanded for calling another Savannah council member a racist
Previous Incidents: Savannah City Council scolded when Kesha Gibson-Carter was removed as chair for calling a colleague "racist."
More on Gibson-Carter: Savannah alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter 'disinclined' to participate in city manager search
Purtee admitted in a phone interview earlier this week that he used the "ghetto b*****" slur. Gibson-Carter, who was contacted Thursday about the incident, shared a grievance letter she sent to Georgia Southern University President Kyle Marrero, detailing her grievances with Purtee, a GSU police chief.
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Purtee and Gibson-Carter have a bitter history, with Purtee twice filing ethics lawsuits against Gibson-Carter. He frequently tells her to "shut up" during tense moments of the council meeting.
Alderman Kurtis Purtee testifies at Ethics Committee meeting to hear grievances with Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter.
Contacted for comment on the attribution incident, Gibson-Carter responded with an email that read, in part, "It is unfortunate that I must continue to respond to issues surrounding attacks against me to address the most pressing issues facing our Community faces such rising crime, poverty, forced displacement, homelessness and property taxes. Instead, I'm constantly being attacked on the council, and the attacks are usually ignored by the mayor and the media."
What started the argument?
After the September 8 meeting, Gibson-Carter spoke to a constituent outside of the council chambers. Purtee says he approached the two to expand the conversation and Gibson-Carter dismissed him, calling him "boy," which he found offensive.
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The voter "expressed that she was not interested in speaking to him. I then asked him not to tell her as she was upset with him and his staff," Gibson-Carter said via email.
Purtee says he then called Gibson-Carter a "ghetto bitch."
Kesha Gibson Carter
Purtee said the voter Gibson-Carter spoke to was one of his District 5 residents. According to Purtee, the voter had come to raise a property issue but was denied because the matter was not on the meeting's agenda. Purtee said he is familiar with the property and a proposed project for the site and would like to share information.
Purtee said Gibson-Carter confronted him, called him "boy" twice and told him to "go somewhere else."
"The way she was dismissive and called me 'boy' twice when I went out to try and talk to this lady kind of upset me," Purtee said. "And then her calling me a child predator and a pedophile, that pissed me off right there."
Kurti's puree
Gibson-Carter said Purtee's "ghetto b****" comment was particularly concerning because Purtee is a police officer and trained in de-escalation.
"The use of the term 'ghetto' makes the encounter directly racist. And as a woman leader, I'm not letting that go," Gibson-Carter said in her email. “Kurtis Purtee works at a university with blacks and women. He wears a badge and carries a gun and also has arrest powers. That is a dangerous force for someone who despises women and African Americans.”
Purtee said he had to resort to his de-escalation training during the interaction, noting, "I had to focus there for a minute because I was like, let's go now."
What does the bodycam video show?
The aftermath of the incident was captured on the officer's body camera. The first few seconds are muted, but the footage shows Purtee speaking to Gibson-Carter outside the council chambers on the second floor of City Hall, with the officer standing between them.
With the camera on Purtee, the officer turns on the body camera around the 30-second mark. The first words you hear are Purtee saying, "She treats the employees like shit all the time. I'll be happy when she's gone."
Gibson-Carter, holding her phone in a film position, says to Purtee, "Let's go live." Gibson-Carter regularly hosts live streams on her Facebook page. Purtee then walks away and Gibson-Carter says, "Yeah, I figured so."
The aftermath of an interaction between Savannah council members Kurtis Purtee and Kesha Gibson-Carter on September 8, in which Purtee calls her a "ghetto bitch."
Gibson-Carter then points phone in hand at someone off-screen and says, "I think that makes you one too because you all look the same," before asking the officer if the body-cam interaction was recorded became.
"Did you get that on camera? He called me a ghetto bitch? Do you get that?” Gibson-Carter says to another person out of camera view, “He called me a ghetto bitch.”
The recording also shows Assistant City Manager Heath Lloyd speaking to the woman, whose concerns both Gibson-Carter and Purtee were trying to address.
More: Councilwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter faces charges of 'vulgar obscenity' and 'misinformation to the public' in an ethics complaint filed by a Savannah councillor
More: Ethics council: Savannah alderwoman violated ethics regulation
More: Savannah Council Accepts Apology Alderwoman Gibson-Carter Says She Didn't
Gibson-Carter then says to the officer recording the body camera footage, "You know what? I'm sorry for you. Just a real disappointment. Just a real disappointment and I hate that things have to be the way they are. I really do."
"You know what he does every day. And it's a shame you have this job," says Gibson-Carter, still addressing the City Hall police officer.
At-Large Alderwomen Alicia Miller Blakely and Kesha Gibson Carter watch as the Savannah City Council discusses the details of the city's memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Attorney's Office at Thursday's city council meeting. Both Blakely and Carter voted against the measure.
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What is the story between the two council members?
The tenure of the current Council has been one of similar turbulence. In December 2021, the city council voted 6-3 to reprimand Gibson-Carter after he called alderman Nick Palumbo a racist earlier in the month.
In January 2022, Purtee brought up an agenda item calling for the review of city council officials in response to the Palumbo-Gibson-Carter incident. At the time, Gibson-Carter was serving as Council Chair, a position she was selected for during the first Council meeting in 2020.
Purtee's motion was accepted, and Gibson-Carter was stripped of the title of Council President.
In August 2020, four council members, including Purtee, filed an ethics complaint against Gibson-Carter stemming from a closed session regarding the search for a city manager.
Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter speaks to the media in 2020 about an ethics complaint filed against her.
In his complaint, Purtee cited a number of ethical issues, including Gibson-Carter using "vulgar profanity" towards council members in closed sessions, physically threatening another council member, making public allegations of unethical practices at City Hall without evidence, and conveying misinformation to the public, verbally aggressive and harassed other council members and the mayor, harassed the city manager recruiter, and refused to be part of the city manager hiring process.
A three-member ethics committee at a hearing on Oct. 29, 2020, determined that Gibson-Carter had violated the city's code of ethics.
Will Peebles is a City Council and County Commission reporter for Savannah Morning News, reporting on local decisions in Savannah and Chatham County. He can be reached at wpeebles@savannahnow.com or on Twitter at @willpeeblesSMN
Drew Favakeh is a public safety reporter for the Savannah Morning News. You can reach him at AFavakeh@savannahnow.com.
This article originally appeared in the Savannah Morning News: Savannah Alderman directs derogatory insults at fellow councillors

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