A Marietta councilman allegedly called the police on a former opponent Thursday morning after she touched him and greeted him at an event at a senior housing complex, two people involved told the MDJ.
Cristina Stallworth, a Realtor who ran an unsuccessful campaign to unseat Ward 5 Councilman Reggie Copeland, said she arrived at The Retreat at Dorsey Manor on Thursday to campaign alongside Carlyle Kent, who is now in a runoff against Copeland.
In the Nov. 2 election, Kent finished first in a three-way race for the Ward 5 seat, with Copeland second and Stallworth third. Stallworth endorsed Kent the morning after Election Day. Kent and Copeland advanced to a runoff, scheduled for Nov. 30.
Stallworth had come to help serve food and campaign with Kent. Upon entering, the first person she saw was Copeland, she said.
“I tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Hi,’ because, like, you’re standing right next to me, so I acknowledged his presence,” Stallworth said. “And then he started screaming at me and told me I wasn’t his friend and not to touch him.”
Stallworth said she then walked away as other people in the room stared. She went about her work getting ready for the meal (Kent and Stallworth went to campaign and to help feed the seniors a Thanksgiving meal — Kent’s campaign had donated some food for the event, he said).
The police arrived shortly after, Stallworth said, after she had seen Copeland outside talking on the phone.
“I was humiliated,” Stallworth said. “I stepped out, I asked if I was under arrest, because it was kind of scary. I’ve never been in trouble like that. And they (Marietta police) just said that he just wanted to make a report and a case, because I made him uncomfortable. And then I just told them, “Well, I was just trying to say hi. I did not know that was a negative thing, or whatever.’”
Copeland did not respond to a request for comment. Kent confirmed Stallworth’s account of the incident.
Officer Chuck McPhilamy, spokesman for the Marietta Police Department, confirmed that police had been called to Dorsey Manor to document an incident involving Copeland and see whether further investigation was necessary. The MDJ requested the police report for the incident, but it was not immediately available Thursday.
Stallworth said she was shocked by the incident, which she said was a waste of the police’s time. She wasn’t looking for any trouble with Copeland, she said.
“He’s a big guy,” Stallworth said. “I’m 4-foot-11, he’s like 6-something. And he’s yelling at me and telling me not to touch him?”
Stallworth said both Mayor Steve Tumlin and Councilman Johnny Walker called her Thursday to say they were sorry that happened to her.
Kent said Stallworth was upset and had tears in her eyes.
“It was just uncalled for, a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Kent said, before pointing out that Copeland serves as chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
“I’m just a citizen at this point. And he was disrespectful to me, as a human and as a citizen, especially in his ward. Like, that’s not OK, if you’re gonna treat people that way,” Stallworth said.
After speaking with police, Stallworth said she stayed at the event, assisting with putting on the meal. When it was time to serve the seniors, she spoke to seniors, campaigning with Kent, while Copeland “took his card and went about his way.”
“Carlyle was a pure gentleman the whole day and supported me and had my back after the incident, and it would be an honor to have him serve our ward and the people in it,” Stallworth said.
Copeland has had incidents with law enforcement and others before. In 2018, he requested a restraining order against fellow Councilman Andy Morris after the two got into an argument after a council meeting. A judge dismissed the request.
Also in 2018, city communications director Lindsey Wiles filed an ethics complaint against Copeland, accusing him of berating her at a city event. The complaint was later dismissed on a technicality.
Last year, Copeland was arrested on misdemeanor counts of obstructing police after being involved in a car crash. Body camera footage from the incident showed Copeland refusing to exit his truck while an officer tried to investigate the crash.