City commission votes against censure of vice mayor

City commissioners discuss agenda items Feb. 8 at a city commission meeting held over Zoom.

For the second week in a row at a city commission meeting, a social media post was at the forefront of discussion.

After conversation among commissioners, ultimately, a resolution to censure Vice Mayor Amy Perschbacher was struck down with a 4-2 vote. Commissioners Lori Gillis and Petro Tolas voted in favor of the resolution.

On Jan. 18, the city's vice mayor drew controversy among Mount Pleasant residents with an image on her personal Facebook page.

The post made was an image of a "Thin Blue Line flag" being peeled back to reveal a black swastika. Perschbacher said the post was provided without context and has since apologized and removed the post.

Before voting against censure, Mayor Will Joseph attempted to make his position clear to other commissioners. He also expressed his support for Mount Pleasant law enforcement.

“My fear is that what has overtaken city commission is now items that are for the public to debate. We should not be, as a board, trapped in drama that is happening outside of city business,” Joseph said. “I do think commissioners have a responsibility to represent the city, residents and the business well, and everyone has a different idea of what that means.”

If we go down this road of censure tonight, we set ourselves up for the precedent of facing Facebook posts and things said in the newspaper. That’s really not our place. That’s the place of the people at the ballot box.”

Tolas quickly responded to the mayor’s comments.

“This is a total embarrassment. You embarrass me – this whole commission does,” Tolas said. “You don’t support the police? That’s basically what we’re saying.”

In preparation for the meeting, City Manager Nancy Ridley said she and city attorney Mike Homier drafted a resolution based on concerns of an ethics violation. The resolution would allow the city to censure the vice mayor. City commission does not hold the power to remove a commissioner from office.

The drafted resolution contained four specific items which would express the commission's support for law enforcement partners, encourage elected officials to consider the impact of their “public expressions,” commit to working toward developing clear expectations for social media use and, lastly, censure the vice mayor. 

In terms of city government, censure is "strong disapproval or condemnation, expressed through a resolution," according to a memo from Homier. 

At the Feb. 8 Mount Pleasant City Commission Meeting, eight residents took advantage of the public comment section to support Perschbacher.  The vice mayor’s attorney also spoke.

Mount Pleasant resident Eric Chercover described it as a “growing chorus of people in support” of Perschbacher.

“It is easy for a group of anonymous people to complain bitterly about what they hear or see,” Chercover said. “It is quite a different story for those who live in and engage with this community to be participating in this discussion.”

Each resident who commented during the meeting disapproved of censure. 

Ridley said no emails were sent to the city in response to agenda items. However, before moving to agenda items, Ridley read two written letters that couldn’t be included in the meeting packet.

“Please, for the love of God, stop this nonsense. Everyone who is making comments condemning the vice mayor and telling her to resign, shame on you,” one correspondent wrote. “The vice mayor made her position clear when she graciously apologized and clarified her statement. Yet, the political circus rolls on.”

Other Business

- Commissioners approved to allocate $95,000 of the city’s budget to three different park projects in 2021. The funds will pay to convert tennis courts at Island Park to pickleball courts, add additional exercise equipment to the path at Island Park and repair the parking lot at Mill Pond Park.