Councilman Watson Accused Adrean of Racism over “White Paper”
(APN) ATLANTA — At the November 14, 2012 Finance/Executive Committee Meeting of the City Council of Atlanta, Councilman Aaron Watson (Post 2-at-large) accused Yolanda Adrean (District 8) of racism over her use of the term “white paper” and accused her of only being satisfied with testimony from White city officials.
Watson is currently running for reelection and is being challenged by Mary Norwood, who is running a strong race to regain her old At-large seat.
When Watson made the comments, word got out to many Buckhead residents who became very upset at his accusations regarding Adrean.
The Finance/Executive Committee had been discussing a proposed payment to a contractor, Rockdell Pipeline, for approved work that had been performed by the contractor after the end of the contract period. Chief Financial Officer Jim Beard, who is Black, assured the Cmte that new procedures were being put in place to ensure such post-contract work would not recur with any other vendors.
Adrean asked a new city employee who was responsible for these accounting transactions, Mr. Griessler, who is White, to address the Committee.
“Can you write a white paper for Council so we’ll just have this documented, as to what the new process was or to what the new controls are, so what we won’t hear this again, please?” Adrean, who is White and represents Atlanta’s Buckhead community, asked.
“I hate the term white paper!” Watson blurted out.
“What you reveal… is that you seem only as we face with [sic] our external audit question from a year ago that you seem only to be satisfied when you get a White guy up there to answer any of your questions,” Watson said.
“My goodness! Mr…” Adrean began.
“I want you to know that’s how it looks to me. Let’s be careful about the term white paper. Let’s be careful about when we get comfortable with information that comes before us. I did have some questions, Madam Chair [Felicia Moore (District 9)],” Watson said.
“May I just say something?” Adrean asked.
“You may say something, but I was in the line of questions when it went back to you and I’m sensitive about that,” Watson said.
“I’m sorry about that and I’m stunned at what you’re saying,” Adrean said.
“I’d never heard the term white paper before, until I joined the Council and I heard from the most senior member of the Council here, who is Mr. Martin [(District 10)]. And so I just adopted a term that I heard colleagues use, and if you find it offensive I’m terribly sorry. I just thought it was a term that you all used,” Adrean said.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a white paper is defined as “(1) A government report. (2) An authoritative report on a major issue, as by a team of journalists.”
“And I didn’t call Mr. Griessler to the mike because he’s White, I called him to the mike because he’s new to the team for Department of Watershed Management and he’s responsible for these transactions,” Adrean said.
“The Chief Financial Officer is responsible and you already talked to him,” Watson said.
“There is no way I called Mr. Griessler to the mike because of the color of his skin,” Adrean said. “I called him to the mike because he is now part of the team, part of the solution, and I wanted to get a commitment from somebody, and maybe I should’ve asked Mr. Beard, but I am just stunned, Mr. Watson, and I’m sorry that you feel that way,” Adrean said.
“I want to redirect the question just a little bit,” Watson said, returning to his questioning of Beard regarding the financial accounting issues.
Councilman Martin disagreed with Watson’s assessment of the term white paper, however.
“As for this term white paper, if you follow Brooking Institute, if you follow Harvard School of Government, if you follow the Deplhi System, and most times white papers are used at the level of the President of the United States,” Martin said.
“Where it’s supposed to be a quick synopsis of a large piece of literature and research, and when you summarize it, in essence, you bring it down, for a quick reference and a quick understanding,” Martin said.
He went on to say that he believed that Watson and Adrean should have a one-on-one conversation about how to avoid the appearance of racial insensitivity.
“I care about you as a person, and I think you’ve tried to be fair,” Martin said to Adrean.