London City Council President Joe Russell addressed a larger than usual audience Thursday night in council chambers as part of the last council meeting of 2017.
Prior to the audience concerns portion of the meeting, Russell told speakers that they were not to speak on matters regarding his marriage or other aspects of his private life.
Russell was recently asked to step down from his position as council president by London Mayor Patrick Closser and chairman of the Madison County Republican Party, Nick Adkins. Madison County Democratic Party Vice Chair Ryan Steiner also asked for the council president’s resignation.
Russell, who was arrested and charged with domestic violence after an altercation with his wife on Sept. 10, pleaded to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct earlier this month and fined $150 and ordered to pay court costs of $105.
“We are here to conduct the city’s business, we are not here to put my marriage or my personal life on trial, and if you‘re here to speak about that issue, we will not be talking about that tonight. I will only say that this is a private matter between my wife and I — it’s been resolved and we look forward to moving on,” Russell said.
For two of the people who had signed up to voice their concerns, the line between Russell’s private life and and his public role had definitely been crossed.
Citizen Dwight Jones, who presented himself as Master Dwight of the Jones-Wilson family, was the first to address city council.
Jones appeared to be using language associated with the “sovereign citizens” movement, or at least using aspects of that movement for his own purpose.
Briefly, sovereign citizens believe themselves accountable only to their particular interpretation of common law, and not subject to most, if any government rule.
“When I’m here to speak, you need to know your place in the role as servants — we the people are the masters,” Jones said of council. “The community does not belong to you. When you are elected to hold a position, you belong to the community.”
Jones pressed on, expounding upon his theory that something was amiss within the city administration, and that he had not been afforded the same treatment when in a similar (but unspecified) situation as a certain (unnamed) person.
“Misconduct is misconduct, misuse of power is misuse of power, and injustice is injustice,” he said. “When I’m sitting here watching things in my community go on that I’ve had to deal with issues myself, and then other people get hit with the same issues in which I myself was innocent of some other folks may have been found guilty of, and they get treated different than what I got treated — that’s a bias, it’s unfair. These issues need to be addressed. I’m not going to say any names or point any fingers,” Jones said.
Jones also made mention that he was aware of corruption within the city.
“This city is running on a thin line with me in regards to a lawsuit being brought forth against it in regards to the injustices that I’ve had to deal with,” he said before concluding that he would be returning for a future meeting.
Unlike Jones, who spoke right up to and around mentioning the council president, the next speaker to address the group called him out directly.
Newly elected councilman, Henry Comer, took to the podium.
Russell again reminded him that he was not to talk about Russell’s personal matters.
After stating his name and address for the record Comer said: “I am not here to talk about your personal matters, I’m here mostly to address your professional matter here as president of city council.”
Comer stated that it was his belief that the council president’s actions in his personal life directly affected his ability to function in his role as council president.
“With the things he’s addressed and done in his personal life comes out to the professional, and I think that there is a conflict to represent a body with truth, and honesty, and justice knowing the things you’ve been faced with … on a professional level, not on a personal,” Comer said. “I know that the mayor, and also Nick Adkins, has sent out letters asking for your resignation, which I think was arrogantly rejected.”
“What type of leader am I going to be, if I’m not being the best person that I can be?” Comer posed to the council. “You can’t be a strong, effective leader if you don’t have the trust and respect of the people. That’s all I have,” he finished.
Members of the audience applauded as Comer left the podium.
Reach Andrew Garrett at 740-852-1616, ext. 1616.