With tensions running high after the termination of Eboni Eaton on Friday, the City of Covington expected a large crowd at Tuesday’s meeting of the board of mayor and aldermen.
City officials issued a special alert, notifying the public only 66 people could be seated inside the board room. No such notice has ever been issued before Monday.
The meeting opened with a warning from mayor Jan Hensley that participants should remain respectful and a request from alderwoman Jean Johnson, on behalf of citizens, to reconsider Eaton’s termination.
Alderman John Edwards also spoke, reading a prepared statement where he recounted his requests for information related to the incident and the perception that the board’s rules for citizen participation seemed to have changed at a time when citizens wanted to attend meetings and share their thoughts.
Perhaps the most impactful speaker of the evening was Eaton’s mother, former vice mayor Johnetta Yarbrough.
“The irony in all of this is the same four aldermen who voted her in are the same four aldermen who voted her out without speaking to her or her representation,” she said.
Yarbrough recounted conversations she’s had with the mayor since the issues with Eaton. She suggested Eaton was terminated for speaking up for what’s right and was targeted and bullied by her colleagues and the mayor and his assistant.
Yarbrough asked many questions related to the meeting times, procedures, and Eaton’s refusal to have a meeting with him.
She also suggested the mayor spoke with every one of the department heads except for Eaton when he was running, against Yarbrough and John Edwards, for mayor and later told her that the human resources department was not needed.
“I don’t mean to be disrespectful to anybody and I did not mean to be out of order on Friday, but that is my daughter, she is my seed. I birthed her, I taught her, I trained her. I instilled morals, values, and ethics into her. And for you to say she’s belligerent … when I think of belligerent, I think of somebody that’s drunk and out of control. Now, if you had said one of my other daughters would act in that manner, I would believe you, but not Ebony, because she is a reflection of my mother. Not even me, because I stand and show her fall short of the glory of God every single day.”
Yarbrough, who has known Hensley for many years, also publicly addressed rumors that she cursed him out during another meeting she had with him and public works director David Gray.
“I did cuss. And this is what I said. And I don’t mean no disrespect in any way, but I’m a Black woman and Black people have a certain code. I’m not being racist or anything or trying to say anything wrong, but if you talk about somebody’s mama, mess with their child, they’re gonna whip your a–. I’m sorry. I mean, I’m sorry. I mean, I’m saying that day, what I said to you, because I told him and the reason why I can say is because he’s my classmate. When my brother went to the university of Martin, he rented rental houses from him. When my daughter was on the basketball team for four years, he supported her and bought tickets for her. So I’m not going to say it’s all racist motivated.
“‘I’m just going to say maybe I could have accepted better if you just said, look, we’re not getting along. I don’t want you in this position. But when you assassinate and target somebody’s character, that’s a reflection of me …”
Yarbrough talked of her friendship with the mayor over the years, stating her brother once rented a home from him in Martin and that the mayor purchased tickets from her daughter when she was on the basketball team.
As the former vice mayor continued with her statement, she shared the remainder of the conversation she had with him weeks ago.
“And I did tell Jan, because he was Jan before he was mayor, I told him, I said, ‘If you were a Black man, I will be whipping your motherf—ing a– right now,” she said during the public meeting. “I’m just being real … I’m going to Jan, but I felt kind enough to say it with him because before he became the mayor in that seat, he was my friend. And I know no other way in this world than to be real or to be me.”
“I hate this is happening. Simply I’m just saying I’m disgusted, I’m disappointed, and I’m very hurt.”
The full video from the meeting can be watched below: