GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. -- A private investigator took the stand in an ethics hearing against Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter in the on-going battle over his controversial "racist pig" tweet. She said Hunter has sights set on a better office, outside of Gwinnett County.
"He said he was going to quit soon, not go for election again and run for Madison County commissioner where he has some land," said Robin Martinelli.
Martinelli is a private investigator who was hired to serve a subpoena to Hunter which ordered him to appear at today's ethics hearing. She characterized Hunter as "gleeful" and "talkative" when he received his subpoena.
"He said he was not going to comply (with the investigation) until he was personally served this subpoena," said Martinelli.
Martinelli said Hunter told her he has family in Madison County and planned to run for office there where commissioners are paid better than in Gwinnett County.
It's just the latest chapter in an investigation that was launched in February, after Hunter posted the "racist pig" comment.
Hunter apologized for the tweet aimed at Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis, saying "it was a poor choice of words". But, the fallout has continued for five months. The five-member ethics panel met in Gwinnett County on Wednesday to begin hearing arguments over whether Hunter violated the county's ethics ordinances.
Hunter's attorney, Dwight Thomas, said he had been hired just the day before. He filed a motion for a continuance. It was denied.
He filed for a waiver on the requirement that notice of legal representation be entered with 24-hour notice. It was denied. The process continued without full representation for Hunter.
Hunter took the stand, but again and again said, "I invoke my privilege under 24-5-505." That's the Georgia law saying, "no party or witness shall be required to testify in any matter which may incriminate".
Thomas said Hunter wasn't being allowed "effective participation", "so there's no reason to participate at all".
The two left and the hearing continued without them.
Attorney Dwight Thomas said the whole ethics hearing shouldn't have been happening in the first place. He filed a lawsuit questioning the process.
The lawsuit, filed on Hunter's behalf, argues the five-member board is not legitimate because of how they were appointed. The suit alleges "a similar scheme of appointments to public ethics boards by private citizens has been held unconstitutional" and that Hunter "will be irreparably harmed by any action" the board of ethics might take and there is no way to legally challenge the appointments.
The ethics board must submit their findings in writing. There is no estimate on how long that could take.