Two days after a tense split exchange between Prattville Councilman Blair Gornto, District 5, and citizen Adam Hunt, Hunt received a phone call.
On the other end of the line was a woman who identified herself as Gornto’s mother-in-law. Hunt said the woman chided him for “personally attacking” Gornto during the public comment section of a Prattville City Council meeting in which the council rejected a controversial proposed contract of services with the library.
The woman also said she wished Hunt would “leave (Gornto’s wife) and kids out of it” although Hunt did not specifically mention Gornto’s wife or kids during his comment, other than telling Gornto to do his job as a parent.
The call prompted Hunt to make a public Facebook post criticizing Gornto.
“Blair Gornto, you really should talk with your mother-in-law about calling and telling your personal information to the public,” Hunt posted. “You could have called me back and had a conversation with me. But instead, you let your mother-in-law contact me on your behalf. My question is, why? Why couldn’t you just call me yourself and be man enough to talk about this?”
It would only take about 40 minutes before Hunt did get his phone call from Gornto; but to understand the call, more background is necessary.
Gornto and Hunt get into it at council meeting on library contract
Gornto was the most outspoken council member in favor of the contract on Tuesday night, and in a since-deleted Facebook comment on his campaign Facebook page, Gornto revealed that he was pushing legal counsel to find a solution while he was stationed out of state on National Guard duty.
Taking issue with some of Gornto’s comments during the vote, Hunt returned to the microphone in the council’s second public comment session of the night and looked Gornto “dead in the eyes.”
“Blair, I would like to say, the choice of the parent is there already,” Hunt said. “Do your job as a parent, like you say. Do your job. The choice is there … Do you understand that, or no? Because your face says otherwise.”
Gornto at that point looksed and motioned at Council President Lora Lee Boone and apparently said something about Hunt making a personal attack.
“Well, we are open to personal attacks because we ran for public office and we are publicly up here,” Boone said, while telling Hunt that it is not a dialogue and he cannot expect the councilmembers to answer his questions.
After another speaker spoke on behalf of Clean Up Alabama, Gornto asked to make a comment.
He read from the council’s rules of conduct, emphasizing “any person making personal, impertinent, profane or slanderous remarks, or who become boisterous while addressing the city council, or while attending the city council meeting, shall be removed from the room if directed by the presiding officer.”
“So I’m glad we can pick and choose when to uphold those rules; I appreciate that,” Gornto said.
Then, addressing Hunt, Gornto said that he does parent his children.
“I ensure that what my child is watching is appropriate for her,” Gornto said. “That’s not your decision, that’s not up to anybody in this room, or anybody in this city, to be allowed to tell me what my child can and can’t read.”
Boone then tells Gornto that libel and slander laws are very different for public officials, and Gornto complains that Hunt still became “boisterous” and personally attacked him.
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Boone said.
Gornto says he voted in defiance of “those who choose to vilify, name-call, slander …”
In a Thursday statement praising the Prattville Library Board for amending its unattended minors policy to require parental supervision for children up to 15 years old, Gornto said a vote for the contract for services stood against “those who choose to villify, name-call, slander, insult and degrade others because of their belief system.”
He also calls the councilors in favor of the contract “those who took the hard path” and said he is surrounded by “family, friends and fellow citizens who refuse to be belittled and discouraged by attacks both in person and on social media.”
John Chambers, who sponsored the contract, told councilors Tuesday that someone had shown up at his house unannounced, although he didn’t hint who they were or what side of this issue they fell on.
During a Friday meeting discussing the contract with stakeholders, Councilman Robert Strichik reportedly told Clean Up Alabama leader Chuk Shirley that former councilman Tony Moore, a public Clean Up Prattville/Alabama supporter, had physically threatened him.
Moore told APR Tuesday night that Strichik had actually threatened him. He did not relay how Strichik threatened him, other than asking for his address. Strichik held up his side of the story in a comment to APR.
“I didn’t (threaten him), and he knows what happened, I would think,” Strichik said.
These potential threats and intimidations have not been able to be corroborated by APR, but Clean Up Alabama has openly stated that the library staff and board members are “grooming children” and implicated that public officials that continue to fund the library are “complicit and will be held accountable by the people of this state.”
Hunt criticizes Gornto on Facebook
Hunt told APR that Gornto’s mother-in-law told him that Gornto did not know she was calling him. But he questioned that in his public Facebook post.
“She claims she searched it, but no google search connects me to my cell phone number,” Hunt said in the post. “You have my number. Is that how she got it?”
Hunt also disputes ever attacking Gornto’s family or getting “boisterous.”
“I never was any of the things you read off of those rules,” Hunt said. “I wasn’t ‘boisterous’, there was no personal attack against you. Yes I looked you dead in your eyes and said that you should police your children on what they watch read etc. Never did I say anything about your children or wife. You brought up your children. You brought up your child who is different as if that somehow means you accept and promote diversity. I didn’t personally attack you like you attacked these books saying they needed to be segregated.”
During his earlier comments, Gornto started to say the books weren’t being banned, but segregated, but stopped himself halfway through the word “segregated” and said “moved” instead. He also said that accusations of not appreciating diversity were “falling on deaf ears” because his daughter is different.
“I think that that seat is too much for you to handle,” Hunt continued in the Facebook post. “Maybe someone else should sit where you are. Someone who can hold their temper back. Someone who doesn’t cry about something being unfair because you didn’t like what I had to say. Someone who can handle the public scrutiny that comes along with holding public office. Maybe you should grow a spine as strong as these books you are trying to censor.”
Gornto calls Hunt directly
At 8:42 p.m., less than 40 minutes after Hunt shared the Facebook post, he got a call from Gornto. After the first 30 seconds, he started recording.
The recorded portion of the phone call begins with Hunt telling Gornto that his mother-in-law “definitely shouldn’t have called me,” to which Gornto responds that she “is a grown woman” and that he “had no idea what she was doing.”
Gornto then says Hunt accused him of giving her Hunt’s number, which Hunt says was not a statement, but a question, and noted that Blair never replied to it.
“Yeah, because I don’t have the time to stoop that low to deal with somebody like you,” Gornto said. “I have way too much shit going on in my life to worry about people like you.”
Hunt asked Gornto to clarify what he meant by “people like you.”
“Keyboard warriors, people that want to fight their battles from behind a keyboard,” Gornto said.
Hunt notes that Gornto never called him back from a previous phone call, and asked how he could expect to reach him; Gornto replies that he was driving from Missouri and missed his call, and didn’t check the voicemail because he wanted to spend time with his family, who he had been away from for two months.
“You’re a public official,” Hunt said. “I feel like if you can’t take the scrutiny of being a public official, you should just step down at this point.”
“I don’t know what your deal is, I don’t know why you have such a hard-on for me,” Gornto said, with Hunt repeating the latter phrase incredulously. “For you to sit there and say that I can’t take the scrutiny—I was the only one on that sat up there on that dais who took y’alls shit like a man and then fired back. So don’t sit there and tell me I can’t take the scrutiny.”
Gornto said it was convenient for Hunt to “pop up on Facebook posts” and at a public council meeting “where you know I’m limited on how I’m able to react.” Hunt replied, “I mean, we’re talking now, go ahead.”
“No, because I’m not like you, Adam” Gornto said. “I don’t do things over the phone. If you want to meet me in person, and we can settle this, then name a time and place and we’ll figure this out man. But what you’re not going to do, is you’re not going to continue to drag my family through the mud.”
Hunt protested that he did not drag Gornto’s family through the mud.
“That is bullshit,” Gornto replied. “Tuesday night, you questioned my ability to parent. You brought my family into it.”
“I didn’t question you, I told you, you had the choice,” Hunt said. “I said you have the choice to decide what your children are going to read and what they’re going to watch, you took that the wrong way … You did not like that I stood up to you and you threw a whole fit.”
“No, the reason I— I didn’t throw a fit—the reason I threw a, a—the reason I stopped you was because, up until that point, I had been completely respectful to you, I had not attacked you personally, I had not even used your name,” Gornto said. “I knew exactly what you said and which comments you guys made, but I never used any of y’all by name. But then you want to come up there and you—first of all, you want to call me Blair–”
“That’s your name, is it not?” Hunt responded. “I went to school with you, of course I’m going to call you Blair.”
“I don’t know you,” Gornto said.
“I personally have no respect for you, so why would I call you anything other than Blair?” Hunt asked.
“That’s fine. I have no respect for you either,” Gornto said. “So the feeling is mutual.
“But you can come after me all you want to, but you leave my family out of it Adam.”
Hunt again refutes bringing Gornto’s family into it.
“If you keep your bullshit up, I will take legal action and I will get you to shut the hell up and keep my name out of your mouth,” Gornto said.
Hunt told Gornto that should be the end of the call and asked if Gornto had any other threats.
“Oh it’s not a threat, it’s not a threat— it’s a promise,” Gornto said. “But if you continue to keep my name out there, I will take legal action. It’s a promise, not a threat.”
Hunt and Gornto continue briefly to disagree over whether Hunt brought Gornto’s family into it— and Gornto names two other citizens he said brought his family into it.
“I think that you should step down off you high horse and understand that you f**ked up,” Hunt said to end the call.
“How did I f**k up, Adam?” Gornto responds.
The call ends there. Gornto followed the call with a text message.
“As I offered several times, meet with me in person,” Gornto said. “Name time and place and I will be there. Funny thing about slander and libel against elected officials—you can come after me all you want, and your free speech is protected and I can handle that with grace, but I ironically now have multiple records of you and others brining my family members into it, and your hate speech and harassment against them on social media is NOT protected and won’t be tolerated. This is my final promise if you continue to attempt to defame and cause damage to anyone in my family’s reputation all because you don’t like my politics or the fact that I won’t stoop to your level—legal action will be taken if human decency can’t quickly find its way to you if that’s the only way to prevent you from bringing in innocent people. Have a good night, and once again, I look forward to hearing from you about setting up a meeting.”