EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The Vanderburgh County Democratic Party Central Committee is coming out in support of Councilwoman Connie Robinson.
Tuesday morning, the committee released this statement in support of Robinson after her resignation from the Democratic Party in the wake of May 20th’s Evansville City Council meeting:
“The Vanderburgh County Democratic Party Central Committee met in closed session May 24 to discuss the fallout of the May 20th Evansville City Council Meeting where Councilperson Connie Robinson advanced the name of Reverend William Payne as a candidate for the Commission of the Social Status of African American Males. It is our position that Councilperson Robinson, who is the only African American on the Council and who has worked her entire career as an advocate for the African American community, should be deferred to as an authority on individuals most appropriate for the Commission. Instead of acknowledging that people of color have a unique and valuable perspective on their own community, Reverend Payne’s suitability for the Commission was attacked, and in his absence, his character assaulted. We consider the negative statements made about Rev. Payne at the Council meeting irresponsible and defamatory. While it is true that Reverend Payne has experienced the difficult conditions of the African American male in Evansville first-hand, he has also worked tirelessly to give back and make his community better. The Vanderburgh County Democratic Party Central Committee condemns the attack on Reverend Payne’s character, and we hope that he continues his fight for social justice in Evansville. Moving forward, we hope City Council members who voted against Reverend Payne take the opportunity to visit one of the outreach programs he has established to experience firsthand his good works and reconsiders his value to the Commission.”
Also, in a Facebook post from Democratic Party Chairperson Scott Danks to Rev. William Payne, Danks says he believes fellow democrats Missy Mosby and Jonathan Weaver, as well as republicans Justin Elpers and Michelle Mercer should resign.
Video from May 20th’s City Council Meeting shows Robinson walking out during a vote to appoint Rev. Payne to the Commission on Social Status of African American Males.
Robinson and Jonathan Weaver voted yes. The other six voted no.
(The discussion starts at 38:25)
In her resignation letter to Danks, Robinson said:
“I am writing to resign the affiliation that I have had for many years with the Democratic Party of Vanderburgh County. After allegations of racist activities in a Democratic primary campaign and malicious statements made against an African-American community activist during a recent Evansville City Council meeting, I came to the conclusion that the local Democratic Party has become a party of regression and racist sentiments that my conscience will no longer allow me to be a part of. The Democratic Party’s leadership which fails to take a stand or make a statement condemning these actions is in effect condoning both. I have watched in the last four years as the “Party of the People” has dissolved into a party of intolerance. I will finish out my term as an Independent who is not identified by party affiliation, but instead by the principles that guide those of us who believe that this community is for all people and not just a few backward political operatives who sit on the City Council. It seems that the Democratic Party is no longer a party that welcomes people who look like me. I can only hope that someday it will change and welcome substantive inclusion,” said Robinson in the letter.
In response to Danks’ Facebook post and the press release issued by the Democratic Party, several prominent figures within Evansville also released statements.
Reverend William Payne:
“First, I want to thank God for giving my life direction. I want to thank everyone who has reached out to give support since last week’s Evansville City Council meeting. I thank my family for their unconditional love. I agree with the calls for Councilwoman Mosby and Councilwoman Mercer to step down from the Evansville City Council. They have brought dishonor to the office by acting on their worst impulses and self-interest rather than serving the people. The Commission on the Social Status of African-American Males was another way for me to serve my community and to help others by using my own life as an example. I thank Councilwoman Connie Robinson for supporting my appointment. Unfortunately, this brought to the surface political grudges and an attempt at public retaliation. Councilwoman Mosby claimed that I spread “lies” about her during the campaign. Putting herself in the role of the victim, she gives no facts or corrects nothing she claims I said about her. Since before she became Council President in 2016, I watched her performance. I saw every vote she made against those who need affordable housing and low-income people; those who struggle to pay higher taxes on their homes; people who had their paychecks cut, and citizens who were humiliated when they tried to speak out to the council. I watched her attempt to publicly embarrass other African Americans. I watched her fail to condemn racism, therefore condoning it. The full story of others’ involvement in her campaign is still not told, but the facts are known. Her record is an inconvenient truth, not lies told by her critics and opponents.Councilwoman Mercer tried to attack my reputation by calling out the past that I have never hidden. She apologized for her irresponsible statement, but she can’t take it back. Councilwoman Mosby and Councilwoman Mercer have misused the trust that the public placed in them. The people deserve better.”
Michelle Mercer City Council at Large:
“Council considered four candidates, all African American, for two appointments to the Commission on the Status of African American males. Council voted 7-0 to appoint Melissa Moore and and 6-2 to appoint Keith Patterson, both African Americans.Council members review qualifications and vote independently and are not obligated to follow the recommendation of any particular council member. Attorney Joshua Claybourn presided over council proceedings and democratic process was correctly followed. As a Council member, I had carefully reviewed each resume and voted for the candidates who I considered to be the most qualified. It is my hope that all can accept democratic process and move on to take care of the people’s business.”
“Yes I stand by my Facebook post. All members of the Central committee thought the same as me but were concerned about stirring up too much controversy. I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything but my Facebook post other than getting my feelings off my chest”
“Commenting on One of Dank’s late night Facebook rants doesn’t help anyone interested in improving the affairs of the city”
“Today the Vanderburgh County Democratic Party Central Committee publicly voiced its support of Reverend William Payne’s appointment to the Commission of the Social Status of African American Males. While I respect the Central Committee for what it does, it is my duty, as an elected official, to cast my vote for appointments as I feel in the best interest of my constituents. The Central Committee is not and should not be in the position of telling Council persons how to vote. I had the opportunity to review the resumes of all individuals interested in the position prior to casting my vote. Accordingly, it was my opinion, that the two applicants I voted for, were better qualified for this position.I remain saddened that events over the past few weeks have been driven by angry, misleading and divisive rhetoric. This may make a few vocal citizens feel good, but the overall effect is to cause distrust and confusion in the minds of the public. For my part, I will continue fighting the good fight for the 2nd ward and unity among all residents of our City, no matter what kind of antics are thrown my way. Today’s press release is another unnecessary distraction from my duties as an elected official and I will continue to focus on what’s best for the 2nd ward and the City of Evansville.”