Protestors demand removal of Edwardsville councilman
A group of area residents continues to ask for an Edwardsville City Councilman to make a public apology and step down from his office.
About 25 people protested at the Edwardsville City Council meeting Monday, demanding an apology from and removal from office for Chuck Stites, a city councilman accused of making threats and racial slurs to a Bonner Springs teen. The incident is now under investigation by the KBI.
Kali Chatmon reported that on May 3, Stites used profanity and racial slurs after she nearly collided with his car as she was leaving the Bonner Springs Price Chopper. She and her parents say that when they later located Stites seeking an apology, he further threatened them.
Prior to the meeting, the group stood in silent protest in the City Hall Parking lot, holding signs that read “Wyandotte County, are you okay with racism and threats to minors?” Seven people spoke to the council during the time for public comments, including members of Chatmon’s family.
In her statements to the council, Chatmon’s mother, Tiara Chatmon, alleged that other Wyandotte County residents have reported “mistreatment and unethical practices” of Stites to her, and since the incident, members of Stites’s family have tried to intimidate her daughter.
Tiara Chatmon also said she thought the city needed to make a statement.
“It is right down shameful for anyone on this board to not apologize to the constituents in this area for not speaking out against his behavior,” she said. “… It is my hope that you will do what is ethically right, because the issue is not going away. We will not sit back; we will not be fearful; we will not be silent. And we will use every avenue to make sure Mr. Stites and those who back him are exposed, until he does the right thing, which is remove himself from this council.”
Olliea Jarrett, president of the Bonner Springs Chapter of the NAACP, said there was a way she thought the city could react to the situation.
“One of the things that has to come out with this is that maybe you would acknowledge that there needs to be some diversity training for this council, or for the individual choosing to use these racial slurs,” she said.
Jarrett added that Kali Chatmon deserved a response of some sort.
“If nothing else, we’re trying to teach her that she does have a voice in this community, she does have people that stand behind her and see the injustice,” Jarrett said. “Injustice isn’t justice until we have an investigation, we have somebody from your panel open your mouth and say something back like we’re actually engaging with you guys.”
Stites did not speak to the matter during the meeting, but following the meeting, he told members of the media that he would not comment on the situation while the investigation was ongoing and that he did not intend to step down. He said he thought that once the investigation would be complete, it would reveal some information that was not being shared.
Also following the meeting, Edwardsville City Manager Michael Webb said the city does not support any of its employees or official representatives making derogatory statements against others. However, he said the city has not made a statement about the situation as the incident was still under investigation and did not occur in the city or during a time when Stites was acting in his capacity as a city councilman.
In other business, the council:
• Heard a report from Deffenbaugh, Inc., about a pilot program with certain neighborhoods in the city that would allow residents to test using 95-gallon trash carts and 65-gallon recycling carts. The city’s solid waste contract will expire next year and does not currently provide recycling.
• Discussed issuing bonds in addition to the $1 million required for the Kansas Avenue reconstruction and this year’s city street improvements. Webb said the city will look at issuing up to $1 million more in bonds to address street projects or complete engineering work for future street reconstruction and wanted council input on which projects they would want to include. Council members reported they wanted to see sidewalks near Edwardsville Elementary School and engineering work done for 102nd Street so the city could apply for federal funding for the road’s reconstruction.
• Approved awarding a contract for the 2015 street repairs for $302,000 to J.M. Fahey Construction.