It wasn’t the first time that Metro Council members were caught on a hot mic saying things they may not have wanted broadcast to the public, or even then tenth. Between nominee interviews for the Community Oversight Board on Saturday, several Metro Council members, including Tanaka Vercher and Sharon Hurt were discussing “damage control” with Vice Mayor Jim Shulman.
Why are they in damage control mode? A part of it is the James Shaw Jr. interview that they allowed to be rescheduled against clearly written notices that it would not be done, and that any miss for any reason meant disqualification. However a lesser known incident seem to be what several council members are concerned about. council member Vercher talks about nominees not being treated equally in interviews, and council member Sharon Hurt confirms, noting an internal council email that once council member was effectively shut down in his questioning (read: berating) of nominee Arnold Hayes. We requested a copy of the email from council members, and filed a records request late Sunday when none would provide the email voluntarily.
CM Hurt described the situation as “some people probably feel they may have been interrogated” when describing one such interview, when a council member fired questions about a nominee’s twitter feed at him during the interview, and even questioned the nominee’s previous interaction with police which the council member didn’t feel was a racial issue, pushing aside the actual account of the nominee, who lived through a certain experience with police in his youth. The council member’s attack and questions to the nominee were seen as racist by some inside the room at the time.
Here’s the full 7 minutes of hot-mic conversation, with a partial transcript below.
CM Hurt: is that because of the rescheduling of James Shaw?
Vice Mayor Shulman: They were trying to fit him in with something that was still going on.. find a blank slot.. and they will go longer because he’s going to come in later.
CM Hurt: So that’s a yes?
VM Shulman: Yes
CM Hurt: It was interesting, as we’ve been keeping out questioning pretty general, but apparently there’s been other people (CM’s) using social media and other things, to, um.. question individuals.. within the interview..
The Council Member using social media to question [the nominee]
There was an email that came out in regards to that. Arnold Hayes
CM Vercher: the feedback is all over the place. One candidate that interviewed expressed they had watched the interviews prior to their interview, and they thought their interview was going to be similar..
Hurt: that was the reason for my statement, because I believe there needs to be consistency, because some people probably feel they may have been interrogated, or just some unforeseen consequences
CM Vercher: I think that horse already left the barn though..
CM Hurt: I get that, but I’m saying in terms of us trying to.. damage control, knowing that this has come out, what kind of damage control are we going to exercise in this, and how do we move forward as we move on to the next phase.
CM Vercher: I think the lesson learned, and I’ve shared this with you too, Vice Mayor, with some other mishaps with this body, social media is dangerous. Not all of us exercise discretion, professionalism, out on those various outlets, and that’s spilled over into this process. When we have colleagues badger each other on social media… we can’t… I’m not surprised when they’re talking about candidates and this process.. so it just adds to… we already had a tumultuous year last year, it continues to add to the dynamic that we’re already in, what Sharon is asking, is the damage control in preparation of Tuesday.
Metro Council will meet Tuesday night for the Community Oversight Board elections.