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Democratic Party Chairman Calls For Resignation Of Almost Half Of City Council

Isaiah Seibert

Local Democratic leadership released a statement Tuesday morning asking the Evansville city council to reconsider a recent vote. But the party chairman wishes he could’ve said more.

In a Facebook post on local activist Rev. William Payne’s page, Vanderburgh County Democratic Party Chairman Scott Danks says that almost half of city council should resign.

Payne shared a screenshot of the post with WNIN.

The screenshot shared with WNIN.

The post, written Monday, says the party would release a “watered down press release” Tuesday. That statement condemned comments made about Payne’s character at a city council meeting and urged the council to reconsider their votes against appointing him to a city board.

Danks goes on to say that Democratic city councilmembers Missy Mosby and Jonathan Weaver, along with Republicans Michelle Mercer and Justin Elpers, should resign from the council.

Danks declined an interview but says he's sticking by those remarks. "I, of course, standby my post on Reverend Payne‘s page," he wrote in an email to WNIN.

We reached out to the four councilmembers for comments.

"Commenting on one of Scott’s late-night Facebook rants doesn’t help anyone interested in improving the affairs of the city," Weaver said.

"It's a campaign year, and elections are coming up in Novemeber. I think that maybe it's along those lines," Elpers said. "But other that that, the council did their normal business last council meeting."

Mosby released the following statement:

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.

Mercer made the following post on her official Facebook page:

In its original statement, the Vanderburgh County Democratic Party said it was throwing its support behind Evansville city councilwoman Connie Robinson. The move came after Robinson announced she’s leaving the party for its failure to condemn racism.

Party leadership declined an interview but released the statement after a closed door meeting Friday afternoon to address Robinson’s concerns.

Robinson resigned from the party after a heated city council meeting. The council was considering appointing Payne to the Evansville Commission on the Social Status of African American Males.

Payne had Robinson’s support but ultimately wasn’t appointed. Some members of council questioned his ability to serve because of comments he made during a contested primary race and a prior felony conviction, confirmed by the Courier and Press.

In its statement, Democratic party leadership said city council should’ve deferred to Robinson as the only African American on council and a long-time advocate for the African American community.

The statement also condemned what party leadership called an attack on Payne’s character and urged councilmembers to reconsider their votes against him.

In a Facebook post Tuesday evening, Payne repeated calls for Mosby and Mercer to resign from city council. We've reached out to Robinson for comment, but we're still waiting to hear back.

Read the party's full statement: 

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.

A previous version of the story misstated the day of Danks's post and of the Democratic Party statement.

This article was last updated at 8:54 p.m. This is an ongoing story, and the post will continue to be updated as more information is available.


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