The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, June 23, 2020 1:00 am

Beleaguered councilman resigns

Move follows criticism of his remarks about protesters

DAVE GONG | For The Journal Gazette

The Allen County Council member who spoke disparagingly of protesters against racial injustice last week resigned Monday, the Allen County Republican Party confirmed. 

Larry Brown, a Republican who has represented Allen County's 4th District since 2010, resigned following a weekend of criticism after he referred to protesters as people who are uneducated about local government and who “unfortunately, ... also breed.” Brown's comments came at the end of the County Council's meeting Thursday. 

Residents outraged over Brown's comments called for his resignation, and an online petition demanding he step down received about 10,000 signatures. A protest was planned for outside Brown's home Monday in case he refused. 

A message left seeking comment from Brown was not immediately returned Monday. 

Steve Shine, chairman of the Allen County Republican Party, confirmed Monday that Brown had resigned and that a replacement will be appointed to complete the remainder of his term, which concludes on Dec. 31, 2022.

“His remarks were indefensible,” Shine told The Journal Gazette, adding that he understood why Brown took a few days to consider his course of action. 

Shine said Brown submitted his resignation via text message after the pair had several conversations throughout the weekend.

Misti Meehan, chairwoman of the Allen County Democratic Party, said Monday she believes Brown had no other option.

“It's 2020, and we're in the middle of a global Black Lives Matter movement,” she said. “This isn't about making an example. It's about setting a bar.”

Brown's comments, she said, “do not meet the minimum requirement for (the behavior of) an elected official.”

The county Republican Party is considering candidates for his seat, which covers southwest Allen County. A caucus of Republican precinct committee members from the 4th District will meet in the next 30 days to choose a nominee. 

ChangeMakers Fort Wayne, one of the activist groups that had called for Brown's resignation, said in a statement Monday that it was “the least he could do.” The group also criticized Councilman Ken Fries, R-at large, for appearing to laugh at Brown's comments alongside Councilman Kyle Kerley. Kerley, R-at large, has said he dipped his head in disbelief and disgust.  

ChangeMakers Fort Wayne on Monday called on Fries to resign as well, accusing the former sheriff of “having a hearty laugh in response to Brown's words” and of comparing protesters “to kids when they need a spanking.”

“It doesn't take a college degree in public policy to know that many of our public officials do not value all lives to the same degree,” the organization said in its statement.

ChangeMakers has given Fries until 1 p.m. Thursday to resign.

The group also demanded Council President Joel Benz, R-3rd, apologize “on behalf of the council as he did allow the disrespect to Councilwoman Sheila Curry-Campbell and prolonged decision-making by Brown to resign.”

On Friday, Benz called on the county attorney to look into officially censuring Brown. On Monday, Benz said he appreciated Brown's decision, describing it as “the correct choice.”

“I thank Mr. Brown for his years of public service and for his decision to put the community ahead of himself,” Benz said. “But Mr. Brown's resignation does not solve the challenge laid bare by Thursday's meeting. Allen County will continue to consider ways to make local government more inclusive, more understanding and more representative of our very diverse community.”

Benz added the council will “continue to consider the question of censure, even though Mr. Brown is no longer a member of council.”

“It is important that it become a part of the permanent record that these comments are – and will always be – unacceptable and not representative of the values of this community or of Allen County government,” he said. 

In a statement Monday, Kerley said he has requested all council members attend diversity training and will work to present a proposal to implement that policy within the next 30 days. Kerley also said he is “committed to finding a way to fund this type of training for all county employees.”

“These actions aren't the answer to the problems our community face, but it is a first step in the healing process as we work together to build a community we are all proud to call home,” he said.

Rosa Salter-Rodriguez of The Journal Gazette contributed to this report.

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