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Friday, December 20, 2013

State lawmaker just stone cold fumin' over 'Smyrna S#&*holes' comment

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, a Powder Springs Republican and annual contender for CL's Golden Sleaze Awards, is just plain angry as can be over comments made by a city official in just-released emails about the failed negotiations to keep the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

On. Nov. 11, Atlanta Deputy Chief Operating Officer Hans Utz and other officials in Mayor Kasim Reed's office were caught off guard by the baseball team's decision to move to Cobb. During a chaotic day of internal scrambling, Utz, who led the negotiations with the team, quipped that he doubted the Braves would rename themselves the "Cobb Crackers" or the "Smyrna Shitholes." He even wrote a haiku.

"The Braves might leave us / Becoming the Cobb Crackers / I feel bad for them," Utz wrote in one email.

Utz received a three-day suspension without pay for making inappropriate remarks about the fine folks of Cobb County. The suspension was prior to the release of more than 600 emails requested from local media, including CL, under the Open Records Act.

The city official apologized for his comments, calling them a "lapse in judgment" and an "ill-advised attempt at using humor to make a point about the Braves still being a part of the greater metropolitan region" after a "long, and frustrating day."

"They were not meant to disparage our suburban neighbors," he said.

Nevertheless, his comments have cause a bit of an uproar over the past 24 hours. Erhhart, who helped connect Braves executives with Cobb County officials, has called upon the city to ax the city official.

"He really needs to be fired," Ehrhart told the Marietta Daily Journal. "Calling the people who live in Cobb County 'crackers' or whatever expletive is not the type of behavior you need from somebody who's paid with taxpayer dollars."

Mike Plant, an Atlanta Braves' executive vice president who negotiated with Utz, defended the city official in comments to the AJC: "Hans, he's a good guy, a smart guy. He had the city's interests at heart. I feel bad for him. Every once in a while, we all turn our filter off. So I hope this isn't some challenging issue he has to deal with for the rest of his career. That's not who he is. I never saw that. Hans is a professional."

Chief Operating Officer Duriya Farooqui, who was also involved in negotiations, last week announced that she would leave City Hall at the end of January for a role with international consultants Bain and Company. Reed plans on announcing her replacement in early 2014.

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