SCLC leader calls for GOP chair's resignation

Statement released calls for Rick Hartley to resign from position

Author: Elizabeth Berry, Evening assignment manager, beth@wjxt.com
Published On: Feb 21 2014 10:45:59 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 21 2014 10:40:00 PM EST
Rick Hartley
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The state president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference -- the Rev. R.L. Gundy -- told Channel 4 Friday night the the chairman of the Duval County Republican Party should resign over comments he made about Mayor Alvin Brown earlier this week.

In an interview Wednesday about reports of Brown's office pressuring a JEA board member to vote for the mayor's pension plan, Rick Hartley referred to Brown as "thuggish."

Gundy released a statement on behalf of the SCLC Friday calling for Hartley to resign as chairman of the GOP in Duval County because of those statements.

"Mr. Rick Hartley made the statement calling the mayor a thug and then he came back and restated, 'If he is not a thug, he is a gangster.' That's division in the community, he said that to the point that it puts him in the same level of profiling as Michael Dunn did," said Gundy.

READ: Gundy's released statement

Hartley made the comments Wednesday after the Florida Times-Union accused one of Brown's staff members of strong-arming JEA board member Peter Bower into voting yes on the mayor's proposed pension plan.

"We have seen continued disregard for the rules, the idea that, the mayor's chief financial officer would try to intimidate a member of the JEA board for a proposal that largely unknown they are still investigating," Hartley said Wednesday night. "But telling someone they must guarantee their vote or they'll lose their position is wrong, these are volunteers that work and serve on all these boards. And they do important work and it's disrespectful for the Mayor to treat people like this, this is thuggish."

On Thursday, Hartley apologized for his comments.

"I regret using that word," Hartley told Channel 4 Thursday. "I've been told thuggish is a racial slur. I understand he needs to sell people his point, but it doesn't mean, 'Do it my way or I'll pull the rug out from under you.'"

RELATED: GOP chair clarifies 'thug' comment about mayor

"This is enough. Mr. Hartley really should -- Republican Party should call for Mr. Hartley to resign from his position as a local chairman of the Republican party," said Gundy. "They should not tolerate this, if they are trying to bring this country together and bring us back together as a community, then they should not tolerate this."

Gundy said he felt Hartley's apology was insensitive.

"He doesn't show respect for the mayor's office. He doesn't really show respect to the community by saying things like that. His apology, it's one thing to apologize, and it's another thing to ask for forgiveness," said Gundy. "If he is a leader such as he is of the Republican Party and he makes a comment like that, he shouldn't be in this position. That just should not be tolerated. I begin to wonder now what other comments he’s made if he made a comment like that in public."

Gundy plans to speak about Hartley's comments to the SCLC in Tallahassee on Monday.

Channel 4 contacted Hartley again Friday; he did not want to comment any further on the matter.