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Riceboro mayor misleading public
Riceboro City hall
Riceboro Mayor Bill Austin said the city has been working on the project for years. - photo by File photo

Dear Editor

I would like to provide responses and clarification to Mayor Joseph Harris’ blatantly false and misleading comments in Aug. 18, edition of your paper. First and foremost, thank you for covering the issues currently ongoing in Riceboro’s city management. I will follow the article with my responses as it is written:

No council members were in attendance, as he stated in Aug. 3, council meeting, that this was solely for him and council was not invited. Joseph Harris is focused on dividing the city, and undoing all of the foundation laid by previous administrations, hence why he has removed and refused to put back up photos of previous key contributors in the city’s history. He maintains he has taken them down to create a collage, but they have been missing for months now, and furthermore, a resident at the aforementioned council meeting requested they be replaced. The citizens have not taken well to this and are upset at his childish actions.

Harris has been using the city’s vehicle for personal transportation and personal gain. My own proof of this is a photo dated May 5. This allegation was acknowledged as truth by members of council, specifically Pearl Axson, at the citizens original town hall held back on July 15th. She announced council instructed him to park the vehicle, as well did city attorney, John Pirkle. He refused. His purposeful violation of policy and misuse of taxpayers’ dollars were brought to the attention to the secretary of state’s office. They instructed that evidence of his wrong doing be collected, which is when I started gathering photos of him using the vehicle outside of the city and also for business not city related. I asked at a council meeting on June 1st, 2021, “what business does the city of Riceboro have with Lyman Hall elementary to the extent that the vehicle is there every day”. He refused to answer. I also wanted to know why he was using the city vehicle to drive to personal events, specifically his own birthday celebration on May 8th 2021, and again he refused to answer. I asked a tertiary question, of what business the city of Riceboro had with Planet Fitness in Hinesville, and as usual, he refused to answer. 

In reference to his stalking and harassment allegations, I have captured photos of the aforementioned abuse of power and city property at public locations, again, at the direction of the secretary of state’s office. The social media post has been evidence gathered against him, to inform the public of the truth, and to raise awareness of the foul actions he is committing within the city and at tax payer expense. 

I have not harassed the mayor, but I have shed light on his foul ways as being a sworn public official, who is not even trying to live up to his oath. 

For this, he has created three misleading police reports that he used to persuade a judge, along with constantly stating he was public official, to sign a TPO against me. However, the judge ruled that I had every right to continue to attend council meetings as it is a public event at a public place. 

In reference to fearing for his safety, that is merely a ploy to defame my name and tie it to Malinda. My mother has been the city clerk for 40 years. I would challenge him to find anyone in previous administrations that has one bad word or characterization of who I am, or even more widespread, within the city, as my record and name are clean. 

Next, he alleges he did not know what the town hall on 7/15 was about and that he was not aware of any concerns, and has even been heard saying he did not know about the meeting. Again, I have several screenshots from social media where I was promoting and educating the public about the meeting, its time, and location, which Joe Harris was acknowledged by the Facebook platform to have seen my post. 

He speaks on wanting to revoke a contract so that all the public might be aware and have an opportunity, but I would challenge for him to provide when, where, and what format he posted this contract for public record and application. 

Lastly, his statement of why he rehired Malinda, is complete deceit spun to take attention from his incompetence. At the special called meeting, council voted unanimously to reinstate Malinda. City attorney Pirkle has no vote when it comes to issues of executive session. Furthermore, as mentioned, if Joseph Harris actually followed the advice of Pirkle, he would have parked the city vehicle and turned over the keys to stop using it from personal gain and recreation for months

Jamal McIver

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