The latest episode in years of conflicts emerged this week with the news Councilmen Duane Cronic and Jonathan Bishop suddenly resigned their posts last Friday, sparking debate about what politics could be behind the moves.
On Wednesday, Cronic sent a scathing email to Councilman Jackie Jarrett and newly elected Mayor Larry Ray, criticizing both the officials and hailing Cronic’s accomplishments in office. In the email obtained by the Tribune, Cronic also asked to meet Jarrett face to face so they could discuss Cronic’s grievances in person. Cronic has since apologized profusely for the email.
Nelson’s political conflicts through the years have mostly been over what authority the city council, the mayor or city manager should have, as well as general infighting in the government of the tiny town of about 1,300 residents. The problems date back to at least 1999, when Pickens County sheriff’s deputies forced then-Mayor Dennis Lance to close down the city after almost all its officials resigned. Nelson’s last two mayors also resigned after having troubles with the council.
When asked by the Tribune this week, Cronic originally said he resigned because he had completed the goals he set out to when he ran for the council in 2011. Those goals included strengthening the city’s police department and getting Nelson on steadier financial footing.
By Thursday, after the email to Jarret surfaced, Cronic said he quit the council partly because of the direction the city was heading after the election in November, which brought in the new mayor and ousted former Councilwoman Edith Portillo. Portillo was a frequent ally of Cronic.
However, in spite of the politics involved, Cronic did say he felt he had been an asset to the city. Portillo also said Cronic had made contributions as a council member.
Bishop this week said his resignation didn’t have anything to do with politics. Instead, he said he hung it up, because he’s planning on moving to the Canton area to be closer to work.
“There’s no scandal or anything,” said Bishop, who works as a band director at Freedom Middle School. Bishop added “the funny thing” about the speculation was that he and Cronic didn’t know they were resigning on the same day until it happened.
Both Jarrett and Portillo, who sometimes have butted heads on city business, said they felt Cronic did resign because he wasn’t happy with the direction the council was going. They also said they felt Cronic had been upset by a failed move by other council members in January to demote City Manager Brandy Edwards to city clerk, a position she held before being promoted in
2012. Jarret supported demoting Edwards and said he would like Ray to assume a more powerful position as mayor.
Jarrett’s suspicions about Cronic’s motives were heightened by the email Wednesday, which was so strongly worded Cronic was compelled to assure Jarrett: “I am not threatening you in any way. Do not get the idea that I am in any way threatening you physically, or mentally.”
After learning the Tribune had received a copy of the email, Cronic called Jarrett and apologized, telling Jarrett he’d stay out of the city’s politics from now on.
Cronic told the Tribune that he regretted the email and sent it in a lapse of judgment.
“You are still a council member and should be treated with respect, and I did not give it to you. I am sorry,” Cronic said in the email to Jarret.
Jarrett, though, still said he thought the statements in Cronic’s email were over the line.
“I’ve tried everything I could to be friends with Duane. I really did,” Jarret said, adding that Cronic had sent other strongly worded emails in the past. “I tried to say good things about Duane.”
Jarret added: “I wished he would have just stayed and worked it out. I like the old boy.”
The city manager said an election will be held in November to replace Cronic and Bishop.