Email controversy fuels heated exchange at Harrisonburg City Council

Thomas addresses crowd while defending Rose
Thomas addresses crowd while defending Rose(WHSV)
Published: Oct. 25, 2016 at 11:37 PM EDT
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Tensions rose for a few minutes at Harrisonburg's City Council meeting on Tuesday during the public comments portion of the evening.

Dozens were at the meeting calling for Harrisonburg's Commissioner of the Revenue, Karen Rose, and City Auditor, Gene Ergenbright, to be fired.

In May, emails were allegedly sent from Ergenbright using a "Hitler" emoji when talking about the business "Nexus."

"Support that woman, because she's always supported us," Stephen Thomas, Harrisonburg resident, said to the council.

Following his defense of Rose, Thomas was escorted out of city council by police.

Nine people took to the podium demanding the termination of Rose on the grounds of racial and minority discrimination.

Some argued the "Hitler" emoji email happened under Rose's watch.

"I can't allow any form of intolerance to exist in this city," Stan Maclin, leader of Harrisonburg's chapter of Virginia Organizing, said.

"This is happening in your city; you can't turn a blind eye to it," Mike Donovan of Nexus said.

However, those who know Karen Rose said something quite different at the meeting.

"She's a great and wonderful person, and I just think it's an assassination of character they're working on here," Tom Mendez, a concerned citizen, said.

Things escalated, though, when Thomas took to the podium, with an emotional debate unfolding between him and Harrisonburg Mayor, Chris Jones.

"Tell them the racial term that you called me," Jones said.

"Whatever you want to call it, Mr. Mayor. Whatever you call it," Thomas said.

Mayor Jones said he had only been called that racial term (the "N" word) twice in his life - once when we was little and once last week by Thomas according to the mayor.

"I need a recess. I'm going to take a recess for four minutes. I'll be back at 8:00," Jones said at Tuesday night's meeting.

The emotions were so strong that the meeting was recessed before moving on to the city council agenda.

This is one of many times city council has heard complaints from the community about this email issue. Those who support Rose say they hope all objections will be taken elsewhere.

To view more from WHSV on the issue, see our related links section.

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