Barnes Siblings Confront City Council Over Corruption Allegations and Replacement Appointment

Barnes Siblings Confront City Council Over Corruption Allegations and Replacement Appointment

By Janell Williams

In a gripping and emotional meeting on Tuesday morning, Simi Barnes and her brother, Clairmont Barnes, the daughter and son of the recently deceased City Council member, Jerry “Pops” Barnes, took the floor to address what they claim to be serious issues of corruption within the council.

The core of their address was a scathing critique of the recent appointment of Byron Hickey, a local retired policeman, as their father’s replacement on the council. The siblings argued that Hickey’s appointment directly contradicted Pops Barnes’ wishes and was tainted by the very corruption their father had fought against. Barnes presented phone records between her father and appointee Byron Hickey to prove the alleged mentorship did not exist and Pops did not trust Hickey and thought he was not for the people of Columbus.

The meeting, attended by dozens of community members, turned tense as the Barnes siblings laid out their case. They accused certain council members of collusion and favoritism in Hickey’s appointment. Simi Barnes began with a quote from Sir Walter Scott, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive,” to depict the harm she felt from council members and the misrepresentation of the relationship her father shared with appointee Byron Hickey. 

“Not only does power corrupt, but corrupted people are attracted to positions of power and will do anything to attain it, in this case lie,” stated Barnes. “The appointee greatly misrepresented his relationship, if you can call it that, with my dad for his own personal, selfish gain.” 

Barnes went on to state that members of the “C- Word 6,” the “C” standing for corrupt, colluded with Hickey for their own political interests. Barnes stated she reached out via calls and texts to numerous council members about her and her father’s wish to have her appointed as his replacement, but she was ignored and, ultimately, silenced. 

“The lies and the misinformation stop today” Barnes stated as she continued to share the pain the council caused her family after a private memorial ceremony was held for her father where numerous lies were told, including a false tribute to Pops’ service in the Vietnam War. Barnes declared that her father, though he was a veteran, did not serve in the Vietnam War. This, amongst multiple other allegations, showcased Barnes’s point that the six council members did not truly care for her father or his values.

“Now, my dad, he cared. If something happened to one of you he would’ve acted in a far different matter. He had integrity and exuded empathy and compassion. Qualities that did not just make him a good leader, but a great one,” stated Barnes.

Clairmont Barnes Jr. also disputed the council's actions in appointing Byron Hickey and accused them of cronyism. To dispute the misinformation about the mentorship between Hickey and Pops, Clairmont presented a visual timeline. 

“It is not mentorship if someone has not spoken to you in over a year,” stated Clairmont as he informed the council that Hickey had not spoken to his father since April of 2023.

“My father was a public servant. The person the Sanctimonious Six have nominated and appointed in my father’s position does not have the integrity, the backbone and was not a mentee to my father,” Stated Clairmont. “I want everyone to know that, so when it comes time to vote for anyone in your district you keep these truths in mind.”   

After the June 4th meeting, Hickey did not give an explanation for why he was not seated, but Mayor “Skip” Henderson said it had something to do with a retired person who receives a city pension and also receives a current city paycheck.

There is speculation that Hickey could have been sworn in on June 4, but he would have had to pause his pension as other city employees have had to do when they took another job with the city.

The Rev. Adrain Chester, with the Inter-Denominational Ministerial Alliance, addressed the council regarding the vacancy and lack of representation in District 1.

“..25,750, that is the number of citizens that are allocated to city council District 1 and most of the individual city council districts with the exception of the two citywide seats have,” Chester said. “At this present time in the history of Columbus, Ga. 25,750 people are being silenced from the happenings and also the deliberations that their city councilor would have by being seated here on this city council.”

He said as of June 14, the seat will have remained empty for two months, during which time the Council approved next year’s budget, without any input from a representative from District 1 “as our city council tries to figure out how to make this concocted plan work when there are persons who are ready, willing, and able to represent 25,750 people on this very day.”

He said he doesn’t know if the disenfranchisement is intentional or unintentional, but that it needs to end.

The Council did not address the presenters during the public agenda.

The Barnes siblings have vowed to continue their father’s work and ensure that his vision of an honest and transparent government is realized.

“The best thing for me to do is just stand down and take the high ground,” said Byron Hickey on response to the meeting allegations. He had no comment related to his desire to fill the seat or in response to the accusations lodged by Barnes’ children.

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