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Public Criticism Was Improper — By Tommy Purser

The good wife and I have hosted two events in recent years that called for family and friends to come from out of town and spend the night. The first was a surprise birthday party for my 70th birthday, three years ago. The second was last year when we celebrated or 50th wedding anniversary with a dinner at The Big House.
Both times, when we ran out of room in our home, we had friends and family stay at Western Motel Inn and Suites here in Hazlehurst. It was an enjoyable stay with clean rooms, friendly and hospitable management, tasty continental breakfast, etc. No complaints and each of them who stayed there would gladly book a return visit if they needed to come here again.
I say all that to say how disturbed I was to watch a video recording of the November meeting of the Mayor and City Council and listened as the mayor angrily trashed our hotels, including Western Inn and Suites, as “filthy” and “nasty.” And his criticism of these private businesses came at a public meeting for all the world to see. If word gets around about his public humiliation of motels in our community, we may never get visitors to stay in Hazlehurst, eat at our restaurants, shop in our stores, buy gas at our convenience stores and, yes, donate hotel/motel tax funds that help operate our Board of Tourism which lures thousands to Hazlehurst each year with various events.
What prompted his outburst was a complaint about a motel here from people coming to town to conduct business with the city. They found a motel that was so dirty, they checked out and went to Baxley to spend the night.
I, too, have fielded a similar complaint about a hotel in this town from a lady that wanted to publish her complaints in the newspaper. I politely informed her that a public forum, such as letters to the editor, is not the place to criticize private businesses. We, like every other city and town in this country have proper ways to address such issues and a public forum, and/or a public meeting is not a proper way to handle them.
I encouraged the lady to talk with our local health department, which inspects motels, food establishments, etc., on a regular basis. Their findings can be found online by anyone interested. That’s the proper way.
Similar such complaints can be forwarded to the Chamber of Commerce which is always eager to learn of problems with our local businesses so they can work with business owners to address those issues. That, too, is the proper way.
This particular complaint would probably have been of keen interest to our Board of Tourism who, no doubt, would have agreed such a problem needed to be addressed quickly. That, also, is the proper way.
I ran into Mr. Patel, manager of Western Inn and Suites, shortly after he had read the story in the Ledger about the mayor’s public criticisms. Mr. Patel spends too much time and effort keeping his motel clean and welcoming to his guests to shrug off such a slap in his face. He got angry. And he got the mayor on the phone and told him what he thought.

Good for him.

1 Comment

  1. Joshua Fabia on December 3, 2020 at 3:18 pm

    I understand there are better ways to go about doing things, but I’m curious what if the lady that was wanting to make the complaint about our motels still wanted to put it in the paper after the advice you have. Would you have published it? I’m all for freedom of speech and a free press, but only if it is free for everybody. If something is the truth and not a lie I don’t see anything wrong with somebody saying something about it where evey they wanted. I do understand putting it in the paper would look bad on the business and gave effects on our little town, but nobody cares when things are posted about individual people when they have done something wrong that too has effects on them peoples lives but it still gets published.

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