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Witness testifies that former Buford Schools superintendent led through fear, intimidation
Geye Hamby

The former superintendent of Buford City Schools led through “fear” and “intimidation,” and his racist behavior was widely known among educators and administrative staff in the school district, according to legal claims shared with The Times. 

Those accusations were made by the former principal of Buford High, Banks Bitterman, during a pre-trial deposition in a racial discrimination suit against Geye Hamby.

“He’d lose his temper in a heartbeat and yell, ‘I’m going to kill that (expletive),’” Bitterman said. “I’m going to kill this. I’m going to kill, kill, kill. I’m going to (expletive) that person, (expletive) this person.”

Hamby resigned from the superintendent’s job in August after being accused of using racial slurs in audio recordings made public as part of a discrimination lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

In two recordings, a person alleged to be Hamby discusses his frustration with African-American workers at a construction site and said he would “shoot that (expletive) if they let me.”

In one instance, the individual alleged to be Hamby said, “Don’t send us a deadbeat (n-word) from a temp service ... Well, (expletive) we can find you some kids around here that want a damn job ... They can do more than the damn deadbeat (n-word).”

The recordings were submitted in a lawsuit to bolster claims of racial bias that led to the termination of Mary Ingram, 66, in June 2017.

Ingram had worked for the city school district for more than 18 years.

Bitterman, who resigned in 2017, said he personally heard Hamby use racial slurs to describe African-Americans, and that he believed Hamby targeted Ingram.

The relationship between Ingram and Hamby began to deteriorate, according to the lawsuit, when in 2014 Ingram noticed that the color gold was excluded from the school district’s white and green emblem and school apparel.

Ingram started a petition asking for gold trim be included in the school district’s colors, as it had been since the city’s schools were integrated in 1969 to reflect the colors of the former all-black schools, the lawsuit states.

Ingram graduated from the integrated high school in 1970.

Ed Buckley, Ingram’s attorney in the lawsuit ongoing against Hamby, told The Times that he expects more depositions to be forthcoming.

Buckley said Bitterman was the first witness in the case to be deposed (he has not yet been cross-examined), but that he anticipates securing testimony from other witnesses “we believe would have personal knowledge” of Hamby’s behavior.

Buckley said he also expects to have Hamby and school board member Phillip Beard provide depositions.

“It’s always hard to project what witnesses may say,” Buckley said.

Lawyers for Hamby and the school district contend that Ingram’s firing was based on her job performance only.

A motion to dismiss the case was rejected.

“Obviously, in amending our complaint, we think that the pleadings and our statement of cause of action are fleshed out,” Buckley said.

The trial could start as soon as this summer, Buckley said, though the pre-trial discovery phase could extend that timeline to the fall.

“There’s a lot to be done,” he added. “At some point, we expect to try this case.”