Democratic chair goes step further than party, calls for resignations

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – On Tuesday, the Vanderburgh County Democratic Party issued a statement, expressing its support for City Council member Connie Robinson and Reverend William Payne — following a contentious May 20 city council meeting which led to Robinson resigning from the Democratic Party.

Robinson announced last week that she was resigning from the Democratic Party, saying the party has become one of “regression and racist sentiments.” Robinson said she will finish her term as an independent. She is not seeking reelection for her 4th Ward seat.

The Vanderburgh County Democratic Party met in a closed session on May 24 to discuss the fallout of the May 20 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,” a statement from the party on Tuesday said.

Here’s the full statement, which is signed by Vanderburgh County Democratic Party Chairman Scott Danks, Democratic Vice Chairwoman Edie Hardcastle, Treasurer Alex Burton and Secretary Cheryl Schultz:

“The Vanderburgh County Democratic Party Central Committee met in closed session May 24 to discuss the fallout of the May 20 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.”

In a separate post on Facebook directed towards Rev. Payne, Vanderburgh County Democratic Chairman Scott Danks said, “Although the Democratic Party might not be able to say it, I can individually. Missy Mosby needs to resign.”

Danks also called for the resignation of Republican City Council members Michelle Mercer and Justin Elpers “for their ignorant statements about you.”

Danks also called for the resignation of Democratic City Council member Jonathan Weaver.

“He and Missy aren’t Democrat, Republican, or independent. Nor do they in anyway serve their constituents. They only serve for personal gain,” Danks said.

Weaver and Mosby are both running for reelection as Democrats. Weaver is an At-Large City Council candidate and Mosby is the 2nd Ward candidate for the party.

Mosby released this statement Tuesday:

“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 Councilpersons 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.”

Outgoing Councilperson Connie Robinson previously endorsed Democratic candidate Alex Burton, the Democratic Party treasurer, in the race for the 4th Ward City Council seat. Republican Archie Carter is running against Burton in the 4th Ward race.

We reached out to Councilman Johnathan Weaver, who told Eyewitness News, “Commenting on one of schoot’s late night Facbeook rants doesn’t help anyone interested in improving the affairs of the city.”

Councilwoman Michelle Mercer also released this statement earlier this afternoon.

“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.”

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(This story was originally published on May 28, 2019)

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