Future of Staunton’s Equity and Diversity Commission was up in the air on Wednesday

Staunton City Council in January 2022
Staunton City Council in January 2022(WHSV)
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 8:48 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - The future of Staunton’s newly-formed Equity and Diversity Commission was up in the air for a bit on Wednesday night.

At the beginning of a special meeting, Vice Mayor Mark Robertson brought up rescinding the commission as a whole. He proposed amending the agenda to include the consideration as item number two on the night’s agenda, after interviewing candidates for the position.

This comes after a local newspaper reported on the demographics of people who applied for the commission, especially focusing on those who applied versus who scored an interview.

“I just think it’s a really big mistake. It’s just going to cause a lot of commotion around something that sound be black and white,” Councilor Terry Holmes said regarding Robertson’s comments.

“If you think the paper’s bad now, just wait,” Holmes continued.

“Yeah, I understand,” Robertson said. “That’s part of the process, why I’m doing this, is the paper.”

City Attorney, John Blair, went on to explain how the night could go. He broke down their two options.

Council could have the discussion before they go into closed session or after. If they chose to have the conversation before interviews, they would cancel the interviews if the group voted to dissolve the commission.

If they chose to have interviews before the discussion, in the event they vote to dissolve the commission, the candidates would have interviewed for no reason. Councilor Carolyn Dull said since the candidates were already in attendance, they should still interview them, saying Robertson’s proposal was rude.

“When the dust settles, I’m not going to be the one that Staunton citizens are going to say was rude, racist and stupid,” Dull said.

Robertson, Councilor Steve Claffey, Mayor Andrea Oakes and Councilor Amy Darby voted in favor of adding the item to the agenda. Councilor Brenda Mead, Holmes, and Dull voted against. They went into a closed session around 5:40 and returned just before 9:00 p.m. for an open meeting.

Robertson explained he wanted to put the commission on hold after the newspaper article’s contained data which he felt was confidential as it was discussed during a closed session.

Councilor Brenda Mead said she shared the demographic data but did not believe it was controversial.

Some councilors said the leak of information has breached the trust and credibility of the newly-formed committee.

Ultimately, Robertson withdrew his request to put the committee on hold and councilors are asked to submit more names to be considered for interviews to join.

This is a developing story. Stay with WHSV for more details.

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