American humorist Will Rogers said he didn’t do comedy. He just watched politicians and reported on what they did.
Ol’ Will would have loved my job. Not only do I have Congress, I have the Georgia Legislature and the whole of Cobb County. If you can’t find something funny in this mélange, you aren’t trying. However, I don’t find much humor in what I have read about the arrest of Marietta City Councilman Reggie Copeland this past week.
According to police reports, Copeland was involved in a seemingly minor traffic incident which doesn’t sound like it was of his doing. The police report states another driver, a 19-year-old woman from Marietta, performed a U-turn on Fairground Street and ran into Copeland’s vehicle. No injuries were reported.
For some reason, Copeland refused to cooperate with the Marietta police when they arrived at the scene. After being asked by police multiple times, officers said he refused to provide his driver’s license or to get out of the car. According to the arrest warrant, Copeland “resisted the lawful command by grabbing the center console and pulling himself toward the center of the vehicle. Officers were able to remove said accused from the vehicle. Said accused continued to actively resist and pulled his hands toward the front of his body as officers were attempting to handcuff said accused.” For that, he was hauled off to jail and booked on obstruction of justice. Clearly the man has a problem.
Reggie Copeland burst on the scene in Marietta politics in 2017 when he defeated Ruben Sands, who had been appointed to the Ward 5 City Council post by then-Gov. Nathan Deal, replacing Councilman Anthony Coleman. Coleman had been removed from office after a 2016 felony conviction.
As Around Town reported, Copeland’s election brought out less than 10% of the registered voters in Ward 5 and he barely got 50% of those who did vote. Not what you would call a mandate. And nothing that would qualify him for the sobriquet. “The Game Changer.” Too many fumbles.
Since being in the Marietta City Council, Copeland has been a columnist’s dream. He claimed he heard “with his own ears and eyes” that Mayor Tumlin and fellow Councilman Grif Chalfant were talking negatively about him behind his back for proposing to hold a committee meeting on the fourth floor of City Hall instead of in the council chambers. I am still trying to discern if his eyes heard the same thing as his ears.
He later asked for police protection from the other council members and for a restraining order against fellow Councilman Andy Morris for assault, i.e., invading his personal space. That order was denied by the court.
At the unveiling of the statue of Elizabeth Porter at the new park in her name last August, Copeland interrupted the ceremonies to make an impromptu speech. “I know I wasn’t on the program, but there’s no way I could sit there and not say something as the councilman of Ward 5. I want to thank each of you for continuing to believe in me, that we make this whole nation a better nation to live in.” Somehow, I thought the evening was about saluting Elizabeth Porter, not the self-aggrandizement of Reggie Copeland.
Copeland was then accused of berating the city’s female communications director at the ceremony for not including him on the program. When she tried to file an ethics complaint against him for what she called an “aggressive verbal assault,” it seems she couldn’t do so because she doesn’t live in the city.
When that was brought to the attention of council members, a change was added to the agenda to address the matter. Copeland fought the measure and when that failed, decided to play the race card.
A gaggle of his supporters showed up the Marietta City Council and began shouting insults at other council members and, of course, yelling racism. One overlyenthusiastic protester fell out of his chair while yelling and had to be helped off the floor by city personnel. You can’t make this stuff up.
Councilman Chalfant described the lack of decorum and civility at the meeting “the ugliest thing I’ve seen in 13 years.” Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly said Copeland talks a great deal about goals like public safety and affordable housing, but that seems to be all he does — talk.
Of course, I have enjoyed reporting on The Game Changer and his antics immensely. It beats writing about the weather and the International Monetary Fund, and he has struck me as the quintessential showboat.
But his actions last week over what seems to have been a routine matter involving a fender-bender is nothing short of bizarre and disturbing. Nothing ever seems to be his fault. Someone else is always to blame. Maybe he has a problem with authority. Maybe he has a deep-seated need to feel he is in charge.
Whatever the issue, instead of enabling him and his erratic behavior, maybe someone needs to help him. Suddenly, Reggie Copeland isn’t funny anymore.