City Attorney Jimmy Skipper: The Great Deceiver

January 2019

Attorney Jimmy Skipper
was caught trying to mislead the Black Sumter County School Board members.

Edith Ann Green
School Board chairwoman that stopped Skipper’s deceptive actions.

Staff Reports

The Americus Sumter Observer’s (ASO) editorial board strongly calls for City Council Attorney Jimmy Skipper to resign or be terminated as the city’s attorney. The board’s reason for its decision is this: Skipper has shown a tendency to plan dishonest schemes that would dissolve Black majority elected officials. Skipper appears not to want to provide trustworthy legal guidance to Blacks when they are the majority on the city council or the school board. His politics appear outright racist and that troubles the Black community in Sumter County.

In 2012 Skipper was forced to resign as an attorney for the Sumter County School Board. Skipper was caught trying to mislead the board, specifically for an outcome to return the board back to a White majority. Any majority Black council or board that hires Skipper run the risk of repeating an unfortunate history.

In February 2012, the ASO published the editorial below which described how Attorney Skipper plotted with the White school board minority members to end the board’s Black majority. The Observer’s editorial board has pleaded with the Blacks on the Americus City Council to search for another city attorney and hire someone without such a racist past dealing with elected Black officials.

School Board Scheme to Decrease the Black Majority Backfires Board Attorney Jimmy Skipper Resigns

In a failed attempt by Sumter County School Board Attorney Jimmy Skipper to decrease the Black School Board elected members, the present Black majority board members voted to rescind the idea of school board elections mirroring that of the Sumter County Commissioner’s districts. Had that proposal been approved, the Black community would have lost a 6-3 majority and would have been left with a 5-2 White majority board. There would have been 5 districts and 2 at-large districts. At-large means the whole county votes for a district. Historically, Blacks have never won a countywide election in Sumter County.

Nonetheless, Skipper wanted the Black majority to agree to a 2010 decision voted by the previous White majority school board. He concealed information sent by the U.S. Justice Department from the Black board members. Edith Ann Green, the school board chairperson at that time, had to ask Skipper for the information he received from the Justice Department. This information was not shared with the five Black board members, but Skipper shared the information with board member Michael Busman and the other White board members.

Attorney Skipper resigned the next day after the school board voted 5-4 for him to withdraw the 2010 redistricting plan. And the majority Black board members voted to hire Attorney Maurice King of Albany, GA., to replace the Hartley Law Firm attorney of Atlanta, Ga. Skipper was used as the local attorney for the school board but the school system usually retains two law firms. Skipper was unclear as to why he resigned.

Skipper confused the community by declaring that the Black majority board was violating the law since they refused to accept the districts that he submitted to the GA State Legislature. He explained that the redistricting plan was “law,” but the plan had to be “pre-cleared” by the U.S. Justice Department before it becomes law. He contradicted himself by saying, “It was a law when in fact it is not law until the Justice Department preclears it.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act requires “pre-clearance” from the U.S. Justice Department before any changes are made in districts whether the district in question is a school board, city council, county commission, legislature or a congressional district.

Skipper failed to tell our community that the Black majority board had every right to change the redistricting plan that the majority White board offered in 2010. Instead, former White board chairman, Michael Busman and Skipper tried to portray the current Black majority board as villains or worse as “breaking the law.”

Attorney Maurice King, the newly appointed school board attorney, will represent the board from this point on. King will resubmit to the U.S. Justice Department the nine districts with a new map that will be pre-cleared so that all of the current board members will remain in their respective districts and seats. Hiring King, the school board avoids the use of two law firms since Attorney King’s office is in Albany, GA. The cost to the board to retain the Hartley’s Atlanta Law Firm is costly. Attorney Skipper was retained to provide quick service for the board.

The Black community concludes that Skipper’s persistent and adamant urging of the Black majority board members to change the school board districts was a diabolical scheme to return the board to a White controlled majority. And his efforts to paint a distorted picture to the public of the majority board members as “lawbreakers” had the appearance of being an unprofessional and unethical representative of the
people who pay him for legal advice.

The Americus Sumter Observer applauds and supports our Black school board members for their courageous vote to rescind the 2010 vote that would have been detrimental to their constituents. And we condemn the other local newspaper, the Americus Times Recorder, and the Sumter News, for not understanding how redistricting works. Both papers were quick to accuse the five Black board members of disobeying the GA State Legislature who approved the plan but it was not a final law until the U.S. Justice Department approved the plan.