Two outstanding suggestions from citizens to the Georgetown City Council emerged from Monday’s regular meeting.
Eight citizens responded to a social media post by Council member Karen Tingle-Sames. Each speaker said the post was inappropriate and they were offended. A couple suggested Tingle-Sames should resign.
The critical post was beneath a photo of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their families using terms like “crack pot little girls” and “creepy” and “China Joe.”
The two suggestions were diversity training for council members and the other was to broaden the city’s ethics ordinance, so elected officials could be held more accountable for their actions and words.
Requiring council members to attend diversity training is an excellent and easy first step. Most of the council members expressed support for the idea and Mayor Tom Prather indicated that would be a priority when the new council is inducted.
This is the second time with a year-and-a-half that a council member has created controversy by saying things many citizens found offensive. After passing a Fairness Ordinance council members Marvin Thompson and Polly Singer-Eardley were caught on an open microphone during a break in the meeting joking about the LBGTQ community and Scott County Deputy Jamie Morales who was wounded in the line of duty, but was suing the city.
Thompson and Singer-Eardley lost their bid for re-election to the council in the November election.
Some members of this council are tone-deaf when it comes to various parts of the community. Others are clumsy because their perspective is limited, and while they attempt to say and do the right thing, it comes out condescending and narrow-minded. At least one council member whose heart may have been in the right place was sadly out of tune with the tone and scope of the meeting with his comments.
We encourage Mayor Prather and the council to take the necessary steps for diversity training for council members.
The ethics ordinance is a more sticky topic, but one that also needs attention. While there may be a call for Tingle-Sames’ resignation, Prather appropriately pointed out that doing so just days following an election would circumvent the will of the people who elected her. It would require a unanimous vote of the council to remove another council member, so there really isn’t a mechanism to remove a council member anyway.
But council members should be held accountable if their actions and/or words are deemed inappropriate by fellow council members and the public at large.
We would urge the 2021-22 council to begin looking at the city’s ethics ordinance and adding some teeth to it. Georgetown’s current ethics ordinance deals mostly with finances, but the ordinance can and should be expanded to address other potential problems. The punishment does not have to be removal, but the ordinance needs to hold council members accountable when necessary.