Cleveland City Council In 3-3 Vote On Whether McKenzie Should Resign For Alleged Racist Remarks

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - by Tonya Brantley

Regarding racial slurs Cleveland City Councilman Charlie McKenzie allegedly made while working as a sheriff’s deputy, Councilman Bill Estes made a motion to censure Councilman Charlie McKenzie during the voting session Monday afternoon. The motion was seconded by Vice Mayor Avery Johnson. Quoting Roberts Rules of Order, Councilman Estes said, “Members can be censured for misconduct at meetings, violating confidentiality, moral misconduct outside the meeting, absenteeism, bribery, fraud, lying, disloyalty, working against the organization, conspiracy and violating other values that the organization holds dear.
It’s the last clause on which I am bringing this.”
According to Robert’s Rules of Order, to censure a member or an officer is to warn him or her that if certain behavior continues, the next step is suspension or expulsion. The purpose is to reprimand the member with the hopes of reforming him or her so that he or she won’t behave in the same way again. The member is put on notice that if he or she repeats the offense, he or she can be suspended or removed from membership or office.
A motion to censure a member can occur in two circumstances. First, the chair has named the person (as a result of that person’s poor behavior), a member can make the motion to censure when the chair asks for a penalty. Second, if members know of another member’s bad behavior and want to bring it to the attention of the assembly in the form of a motion to censure.
Councilman David May said, “I should not judge a member or members of this council. They were elected by voters. It is up to the voters to judge each and every one of us. I vote no.”
Councilman Hughes said, “I deplore any racial slurs. For me to say to a fellow council member I wish to censure you or ask you to resign, that’s not my position. Therefore, I vote no.”
Councilman Richard Banks said,” I’m going to vote aye. I just wish there had been more discussion. I agree with Avery when he reached out the olive branch and said to Charlie we need to discuss this. We all make mistakes. We don’t as a city need to be involved in this discussion. This is a personal individual act on Charlie’s part. He needs to be admitting his mistake and rectifying the wrong.”
Councilman George Poe said, “I cannot feel right telling someone else to be quiet or how to conduct themselves. I feel the people of Charlie’s district should be the ones to do so. I vote no.”
Because the motion pertained to him, Councilman McKenzie was not allowed to vote. The final vote was a stalemate 3 to 3.
Vice Chairman Johnson then made a motion asking for the resignation of Councilman McKenzie. The motion was seconded by Councilman Estes.

Councilman McKenzie said, “Two weeks ago when Johnson asked the question, I said I don’t remember saying that. If I said that, I apologize.”

Councilman Johnson responded, “Here’s my problem with that statement. If we want to check into something pertaining to the history of this county from 20 years ago or 30 years ago, we always go to Councilman McKenzie. He remembers more than anybody on this council. He knows more people. He knows more about the history of this community. I asked a simple question, did you say it or did you not say it, and he said I don’t remember. I have a problem with that because you are our authority in the history of Bradley County. All I simply asked was for you to tell me the truth. I cannot believe that you do not remember what you said when you know everything else about this community. What you have done, you have 633 African American citizens and voters in your district that you have totally wiped out because of what you said. Everybody makes mistakes. We all make mistakes. All I’m asking you to do is tell the truth.” 

Councilman McKenzie replied, “I told the truth.” Johnson said, “I think there has been so much damage done to those 633 voters. Charlie McKenzie is my friend and I dearly love his family and his wife is just exceptional. I still have a lot of respect for Charlie. But you just need to realize we all make mistakes. There are people here asking you to resign that would back you and support you if you would just tell the truth.”
Councilman Estes said, “It’s not about Charlie, it’s about us. We need to disassociate ourselves from this. This is about Cleveland. I don’t want people to look back at this one day and ask, is that what you did? You did nothing?” 
Because the motion pertained to him, Councilman McKenzie was once again not allowed to vote. The vote was a stalemate 3 to 3 with Councilmen May, Hughes and Poe voting no and Councilman Banks voting for the resignation.
In other business, Meeri Shin was honored as 2013 Youth of the Year by the Boys and Girls Club. In new business and ordinances, a resolution honoring the Cleveland High School Wrestling Team for outstanding achievement proclaiming February 25, 2013 Blue Raider Wrestling Day also passed unanimously.
The Cleveland City Council will hold its next voting session on Monday, March 12, at 3 p.m.

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