A shouting match
Police Chief declines to clear the council chambers, as instructed.
Tuesday, May 7, 2019 - WLBG radio on-line
Another heated exchange involving Clinton City Manager Bill Ed Cannon erupted last evening during the May meeting of Clinton City Council. It began after Reverend Steven Evans, former pastor of Clinton’s Friendship AME Church, appeared before Council during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Reverend Evans had been assisting the city with plans regarding the former Martha Dendy School property. He had helped quiet community members who had grown impatient with the lack of progress developing that property, asking them for patience, telling them that to do this right it will take time. Last night, Evans expressed his own concern about the Martha Dendy project and about another issue – the treatment of City Councilwoman Shirley Jenkins at the April meeting of City Council.
Regarding the rant of former Clinton police officer Jerry Campbell against Councilwoman Shirley Jenkins last month, Reverend Evans told Council he did not take “threats and disrespect lightly.” Evans called Ms. Jenkins a leader, neighbor and friend and said he spoke as a constituent, a community leader and an African American man to offer his support and physical defense for Ms. Jenkins. “If you cannot control what is going on, we will do it as her constituents, as her friends, as her family. That will not be tolerated.”
Then Reverend Evans turned his attention to the Martha Dendy project and Clinton City Manager Bill Ed Cannon. “Bill Ed, I looked you dead in your face and I told you that if you lie to me I’m coming after you from a political spectrum.”
Evans went on to call for an end to “back door politics” and scoffed at statements regarding transparency in city government. He said that Mr. Cannon asked him to set up a meeting about some property but “I never set that meeting up because I knew I couldn’t trust you.” He said he was not shocked nor surprised “That you have decided to do some back-door politics regarding Martha Dendy because I don’t think that you have the history of truly having to understand what is important to the African American community.” Rev. Steven Evans said that Mr. Cannon has stated publicly many times that he is not racist. “Anytime somebody has to continue to say they’re not racist, that’s a red flag.” As Mr. Cannon responded, the meeting became a shouting match.
At one point during the heated exchange between Clinton City Manager Bill Ed Cannon and Reverend Steven Evans Mr. Cannon rose to his feet and approached Reverend Evans. Clinton Police Chief Sonny Ledda approached and attempted to calm both men. Mr. Cannon ordered the Chief to “get him out of here!” Evans responded, “I’m not going anywhere.” Mayor McLain then asked that the room be cleared. Chief Ledda did not ask anyone to leave but asked both men to tone their conversation down which, for the most part, did occur.
In fact, the two sat down at the City Manager’s table and continued their discussion. While their conversation continued to be somewhat heated, but tension did somewhat subside. They did not come to any agreement.
Mayor Bob McLean addressed everyone on the importance of the First Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing the right to assemble, right to free speech and freedom of the press. He read the transcript of the statement made by former Clinton police officer Jerry Campbell about Councilwoman Shirley Jenkins at the April meeting and said Campbell was angry but that he did not actually threaten anyone. McLain also quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s comments made during his last speech, given the night before he was assassinated, regarding the importance of freedom of speech. The Mayor characterized Mr. Campbell’s comments last month as angry but free speech. He said since Campbell did not use profanity, racial slurs or attack someone, he let him continue.
Councilwoman Megan Walsh spoke up with an apology to Councilwoman Jenkins. She said the April meeting was her first meeting, but she recognized that Mr. Campbell had used threatening language and tone toward Ms. Jenkins. She apologized for not coming to her defense. She said that as a woman she perceived the rant as threatening.
Clinton City Council did have other business to attend to and did eventually move on to that business. Our reporter at last night’s meeting indicated there did not seem to be any resolution to the resolution to the issues Rev. Evans brought up.