Contentious exchange at County Commission Meeting - | WBTV Charlotte

  • Mecklenburg Co. Commissioner Bill James referred to another commissioner’s son as a ‘homo’ during a meeting Tuesday. What should happen to James after this incident?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    He should be removed from office or be forced to resign from office.
    1164 votes
    He should be reprimanded in some way.
    560 votes
    He should apologize to the offended commissioner.
    928 votes
    Nothing should happen to him.
    1572 votes
    I’m not sure.
    42 votes
  • Read a story about the incident

Contentious exchange at county meeting

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Mecklenburg County Commissioners passed a controversial domestic partner benefits policy during its meeting Tuesday night. (See related story)

Under the new policy, a Mecklenburg County employee who is in a same-sex relationship where both partners live together and share financial responsibilities, will now be eligible to receive county benefits for their partner as long as one of them is a county employee.

The discussion over the issue led to a contentious exchange of words between county commissioners Bill James (Republican) and Vilma Leake (Democrat).

During the public meeting, a conversation between the two was picked up by the microphones as they sat in their chairs.

We caution you that what was said may be considered offensive by some.

It all started after Leake made an impassioned speech about her son dying of AIDS.

"A son that I birthed and died of AIDS and I did not know that... in 2010 I would be sitting here... to defend his lifestyle," Leake said.

After that revelation, tempers flared when James leaned over and whispered something to Leake about her late son and it was caught on the microphone.

Here is James' comment and Leake's response.

James: "Your son was a homo, really?"

Leake: "I'm going to hit you, don't talk about my son that way."

It may be hard to hear on tape, but after reviewing the tape several times, James used a term that many consider offensive to gays.

Again, this provocative exchange occurred in the open public meeting just before the commissioners voted to approve the policy.

On Wednesday, WBTV News requested an interview from James and in his email response, he did not apologize for the comment he made Tuesday night.

In his statement, James said that Leake was "a religious hypocrite" who "used her son's ‘lifestyle' and his death from HIV-AIDS to justify voting for benefits to allow individuals to use tax dollars to engage in the same behavior that resulted in her son's death."

He also said "it is akin to someone whose son is an alcoholic and died from the disease, using his death from drinking as justification to have the taxpayers pay for more booze." (Read James' full statement.)

Leake told us she expects an apology and the community deserves one, as well. "To literally say what he said was unacceptable," said Leake.

"I grieved because of it," she said.

Jennifer Roberts, Chairperson of County Commission, said they will discuss the possiblity of censure or a reprimand for James.

"If we don't do anything, we're saying it's okay to look the other way," she said.

We want to know what you think about this exchange and the decision during Tuesday night's Mecklenburg County commission meeting.  Please comment at the bottom of the page.

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