The antagonistic relationship between commissioners Steve Brown and David Barlow got a new chapter last week as Brown was voted out of his chairmanship in favor of Charles Oddo. Brown responded in a letter Friday in which he doubled down on previous accusations that Barlow frequently makes racist comments around his colleagues.
Brown said in his letter it was “surreal” to see Barlow and new commissioner Pota Coston “join forces.” They voted in favor of Oddo as chairman, and Pota was then voted as vice-chair after a nomination by Barlow.
The two do seem to make an unlikely pairing. Barlow recently got a lot of media attention for a prepared rant against “Demoncrats,” which he read during a commission meeting. As part of that controversy, Barlow’s Facebook postings were singled out for their questionable content.
After Barlow’s “Demoncrat” controversy, Brown recounted a story in which he said Barlow had gone on a tirade where he “debased ‘the Blacks’ with stereotypical racial insults, saying he knew such things to be true from his days of living in Mississippi. I reminded him in front of colleagues that he was talking about my wife and he offered no apology.”
After being ousted as chairman, Brown lobbed new accusations of racism.
“[He] bashes ‘the Blacks’ in front of his colleagues saying they are all obese, lacking concern over human life and killing their babies, all on government assistance with no work ethic in addition to his comments that Democrat women, in particular, are all ugly and Democrats, in general, are all demon possessed and evil,” Brown wrote.
Barlow denied having made such comments the first time they were alleged by Brown. He has not responded to requests for comment on this second round of accusations.
New chairman Charles Oddo said over the weekend that he doesn’t want to get involved with the fight between Barlow and Brown.
“Whatever Steve says, whatever David says, that’s not my concern anymore. My concern is trying to bring people together. I’m really not going to comment on what Steve or David might say. They need to resolve their issues however they can. My point is to hopefully get beyond a lot of these stories and articles and comments that really don’t pertain to the job and are distracting to what we have to do,” Oddo said.
Oddo would neither confirm nor deny that he had heard Barlow make racist comments in the past.
“I’m just not going to go there. This is not what we need to be talking about at this time. There is not a lot of evidence of prejudice and racism in Fayette County. I’ve lived here 45 years. I know there’s black people that don’t like white people, vice versa, and some combination in between. But I think it’s minimal. It’s not what I want to talk about as chairman of the Fayette County Board of Commissioners.
Oddo said he would prefer that these types of disputes be handled behind closed doors.
“The way I approach things, I don’t talk about people, or divisive issues like that in public. My method is to speak hopefully, for the most part, positively about people because everybody has good in them. Steve’s got good in him, David’s got good in him, why do I have to dwell on the negative,” Oddo said.
Commissioner Rand Ognio was the only one to back Brown as chairman. Ognio said he felt the decision to replace Brown may have been made for the wrong reasons.
“It may have not been the best reasons for the county. That’s just what I believe. I believe I was elected to do what was best for the county. I hope that’s what other people believe. Sometimes personal wants get in the way of what’s best for your constituents. I think that’s wrong,” Ognio said.
He added that he believed Barlow’s personal dislike for Brown was stoked by other people.
“Barlow don’t like Steve Brown, he’s just got a personal vendetta against him. Steve has tried to make things better and done what he could but Barlow has got people probing him to be against Steve Brown and that’s what he’s been doing. The sad thing is it wasn’t the constituents that elected him,” Ognio said.
As to whether he’d heard Barlow make racist comments, Ognio didn’t recall anything specific.