INDIANAPOLIS – Kosciusko County Commissioners hit back at a major state employer this week – refusing a request to step away from controversial political topics such as critical race theory.
The commissioners sent a letter Tuesday to Zimmer Biomet in Warsaw in response to a June letter from Zimmer asking the panel to stop considering an ordinance on the controversial race teachings.
“As the executive and legislative body of the county, our interest in this community is not limited to, nor should it be limited to, 'pure business and economic considerations' as your letter suggests,” the commissioners' response said.
The commissioners are Robert Conley, Bradford Jackson and Cary Groninger. Conley, who is president of the panel, didn't return a call seeking comment.
The letter continued to give a lengthy definition of what critical race theory is from Britannica.
“We do not believe that it is either factual or healthy to teach our children that 'the law and legal institutions in the United States [as they exist today] are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans.' Indeed, we believe that such ideology promotes unjustified conflict and does more to divide us than unite us,” the commissioners wrote.
The response came after hundreds of citizens attended a July 8 informational meeting put on by the commissioners that included Attorney General Todd Rokita discussing his parent bill of rights on critical race theory.
Worldwide orthopedics giant Zimmer Biomet – based in Warsaw since 1927 - sent a letter June 30 to the commissioners after word hit that a critical race theory ordinance was under consideration.
“We write to convey Zimmer Biomet's strong request that the Kosciusko County Board of Commissioners abandon further efforts to prepare and pass ordinances and declarations that negatively impact the business community's ability to attract and retain the best and brightest talent in the Warsaw area,” the letter said. “The recruitment challenges that local businesses currently face are well known and, as the largest employer in the county, Zimmer Biomet believes that your recent and contemplated actions further jeopardize our ability to continue to effectively compete in today's global environment.”
It said Zimmer has become increasingly concerned with the agenda and priorities of the commissioners, including a declaration that Kosciusko County is now both a Constitutional Rights Sanctuary and a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
The letter from Zimmer said a proposed ban on the use of critical race theory is “unnecessary and outside of your scope of responsibilities… We are hopeful that we can find common ground on pure business and economic considerations.”
Zimmer officials said they are the largest employer in the county and are “extremely concerned” that the negative publicity will adversely impact ability to attract, hire and retain world-class talent in Warsaw. The company had 4,000 employees in Kosciusko County as of 2017 and thousands more worldwide.
“Based on numerous discussions with our largest shareholders and other members of the investment community over the past year in particular, it is clearly evident that Zimmer Biomet could be penalized significantly in the market for being headquartered in and closely affiliated with a community whose local government has imposed a CRT ban,” the letter said.
The Kosciusko County Commissioners said they are working hard to bring every available dollar to the county and promote a robust business environment.
“In addition to these economic efforts, we believe that this community can have open, constructive, and healthy discussions on sensitive issues,” it said.
“In conclusion, please rest assured that we, as sworn defenders of the U.S. Constitution and the Indiana Constitution, will always strive to promote a community consistent with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream that all would 'not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character' and that treats all men as created equal by their Creator. Please call us if you believe we can do anything consistent with these fundamental principles of fairness, justice, and equality to help you with recruitment or any other aspects of your business.”