FAIRMONT — In a 6-3 vote, Fairmont City Council passed a resolution Tuesday rebuking council member David Kennedy and requesting his resignation in the wake of racial slurs he made on social media.
Mayor Brad Merrifield, Deputy Mayor Philip Mason, council member Tom Mainella, council member Josh Rice, council member Frank Yann and council member Donna Blood voted yes with council members Dora Kay Grubb, Barry Bledsoe and Kennedy voting against the measure.
In an out of the ordinary move, Mainella requested to read the version of the resolution listed on the agenda prior to the vote, a task usually handled by City Clerk Janet Keller.
Keller later read the resolution in full. It states, “Councilmember Karl David Kennedy inimical to his oath of office and diametrically opposed to the stated public policy of the City of Fairmont and his codified responsibility as a duly elected public official of the City of Fairmont brazenly, shamelessly and with total disregard for the rights of others posted on his social media account, Facebook, derogatory, defamatory, and disparaging ethnic and racial slurs for East and Southeast Asians, including person of Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese descent, and the Muslim, Arab, and Sikh, communities, among others, who traditionally wear headdresses such as a turban or headscarf.”
In Facebook posts, Kennedy used the words “gooks” and “towel-heads” in a running conversation about the U.S. bombing attack that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
In expressing her opposition to the resolution, Grubb said, “I feel he was voted in by the voters, he was not elected by the council.”
She said, “this is not the place to take the action, I feel.” She didn’t think council had the right for the action, saying “it needs to go through the proper channels.” There was some applause from Kennedy’s supporters in the audience.
Bledsoe said he didn’t condone the racial slurs Kennedy put on Facebook.
“At the same time that I don’t condone it, I don’t believe what he said rises to the fire that has risen from the other side,” he said.
Bledsoe said he thought Kennedy should use more common sense when posting on Facebook, but said, “I don’t believe we have the right to ask him to resign.”
But Blood expressed the opposite opinion.
“I just want to say that I believe this is the right thing to do,” she said. “There are many of our citizens who talked this evening and at our last meeting who we hurt by these remarks. It became a national issue, and it’s up to us to show the world that we are not bigots.”
When the council members were polled on their vote on the resolution, Kennedy said, “My vote is for truth, justice and the American way.”
When pressed for a yes or no vote, he voted no.
Earlier in the meeting, Kennedy read from a prepared statement.
“There has been a lot of negative emotion in the media lately,” he said. “It is my hope that this episode will end and the work of this city will move forward. If you’ve been following those media venues, on the positive side, you know that we have announced our candidacy for the Marion County Commission.”
Kennedy recently filed papers to run for a seat on the Marion County Commission. He said he expects to win that race.
“For that reason, it would not be prudent to resign my Fairmont City Council seat for a minor semantic faux pas, or any other reason,” Kennedy said. “The demands of our government are great and those demands dictate that we, the duly elected officials, give our very best efforts to that common work of city and county.
“Staying on council will determine that the workings of those common goals and projects stay intact and remain strong. I love this city and county and I am totally committed to bringing jobs to our area. That is my sole objective,” he continued.
Kennedy told the audience how they can make donations to his county commission race.
When asked for comment after the meeting, Kennedy provided a second news release in which he said, “I believe the public needs to know what this issue is about. I have been the target of our political hacks for some time now; they were waiting for the right moment to smear me and did so last week by taking a private Facebook message and tar and feathering me all over the county.”
In the news release, Kennedy said what he is guilty of is “standing up for a small business when they were being selectively bullied by our Code Enforcement Department. This business tried to conform to certain standards but in the end went out of business anyway.” The business wasn’t identified in the news release. Kennedy stated that Fairmont has lost eight small businesses, with The Broken Egg in Bellview being the latest.
Kennedy said he is also “guilty” of “supporting Dr. Mirta Martin and her great effort of reviving Fairmont State University, by leading protests to that Board of Governors when a political hack was in the wings to take her job. After 3 attempts to kick her out, they gave up for the time being and offered her a 3-year contract.”
In addition, Kennedy said he is “guilty” of “standing behind John Provins and the excellent job he did as Supervisor of our county river park.” He added that “as times goes by, more truth will come out.”
Kennedy said he is also “guilty” of “feeling that our area needs a spiritual lift and supporting the Will Graham event. I believe in prayer. It is my desire that we could come together as a huge community family and move goodness forward. I am flabbergasted that members of our local clergy would contest this event and try to prevent it from happening.”
From the audience, Kennedy had people both speaking against him and requesting his resignation and those supporting him.
Jarryd Powell said he is organizing a petition for resignation or recall of Kennedy, to be accomplished by election. He hopes this can be held in the general election. He said he has to get 2,600 signatures and then present it to the city.