GREENVILLE, N.C. -
A Pitt County Commissioner is accused of “berating and belittling” a citizen for speaking at a public meeting.
In a letter to the Pitt County Commission dated February 21, 2014, Marie Lewis says she was singled out by Commissioner Tom Johnson. Lewis went before the Board of Commissioners on February 17th to speak in favor of a dangerous dog ordinance. Lewis says she was attacked by roaming dogs while riding her bicycle in Grifton.
In her letter, Lewis says Johnson approached her during the meeting’s recess. Lewis says, “Johnson approached me and said, ‘You don’t need to talk about shooting dogs’.” She says she responded by telling him that the police chief in Grifton told her that she had a right to carry a gun to protect herself.
Johnson then said, “You don’t need to shoot any dogs. Anyone that tells you to carry a gun does not deserve to be a police officer.” Lewis says she walked out of the room and was approached once again by Mr. Johnson.
In her letter, Lewis says, “When he saw me, he stopped and put his finger on my chest and said, ‘You do not need to wear that shirt and talk about guns…you are disgracing the university that I have three degrees from’.”
Lewis says Johnson was referring to the baby blue University of North Carolina sweatshirt she was wearing.
When Lewis’ friend, Billy Sanchez asked Johnson to leave her alone, Johnson told Sanchez “I will speak when I d**m well please.”
According to Lewis, Johnson then turned back to her and asked her where she lived. Lewis responded, “Grifton”---that’s when Johnson replied, “That’s your first mistake.”
Lewis says the conversation continued until she refused to talk to him anymore.
In the letter Lewis says Johnson said the word d**n two more times, once to Sanchez’s wife another to a deputy standing by the chamber’s door.
Lewis says, “I don’t appreciate being berated, and belittled by this commissioner. Out of 18 speakers on Monday night, Mr. Johnson chose to attack me….the only reason I can come up with for the attack on me, is that I was the only one that spoke about protecting me with a firearm.”
9 On Your Side spoke with Lewis about the letter. She declined to go on camera about the incident. Lewis did however say that she met with Scott Elliott, the county manager and got various apologies from other commissioners—not involved.
9 On Your Side called Commissioner Johnson for comment, but has not returned our call.