An exercise in obfuscation and misdirection masquerading as a public policy discussion took place on the evening of December 6th under the direction of City Council.
The result of this bizarre event is that City Council passed a resolution, by an 8-1 vote (with Ward 5 Councilor Jason Hagerman the only dissenting vote), to give Chief Jeff Trickler an exemption from the residency requirement that was a condition of his original hire, and to hold absolutely no one accountable for the six-plus year mistake.
This issue was never about Trickler’s job performance, whether he’s a racist, or whether he intended all along to ignore the rule.
It was never about the success or failure of the Community Compact.
It was never about forcing him to move or resign.
But that’s exactly what City Council and some commenters wanted to focus on, so an important policy discussion was derailed and the question of police and city government accountability was muddied and lost in a tsunami of emotional pleas related to Jeff Trickler, the person, rather than the police department as a whole.
Watch the public comment segment beginning around the 30 minute mark:
Then, watch the alleged “discussion” of the resolution beginning around the 51 minute mark:
Readers may note that outgoing City Manager Matt Horn defended the chief by claiming that, over the years, Trickler spoke with Horn and offered to return the money, but Horn refused the refund.
Horn did not provide any evidence that these conversations took place. By making these unsubstantiated claims, Horn, who has a history of lying, deflected any further investigation into the circumstances of the six-year failure to hold the chief accountable.
Gramling Silences Criticism?
The morning after the vote, City Councilor At Large Mark Gramling posted a statement on his official Facebook page. Attorney and Geneva activist Natalie Knott then posted a response to Gramling’s statement.
Knott’s comment was deleted by Gramling.
This is notable and unsettling because when a public official uses social media to engage with the public, that official’s account amounts to a public forum, and therefore the official cannot censor or bar anyone from participating in that forum.
Also, there is currently a lawsuit against President Donald Trump working its way through the courts on behalf of users who were blocked from responding to his Twitter account.
That’s not to say that Gramling intended to carelessly silence the valid concerns of a citizen. However, all City Councilors should be aware that a social media presence should not be utilized only to present unchallenged statements to the public.
It should also be noted that Ward 1 Councilor Angelina Marino deleted the comments from constituents who responded to her Facebook statement about her domestic violence history.
Below, you will find Gramling’s statement in its entirety, followed by the response from Knott that was deleted by Gramling.
Mark Gramling City Councilman at Large
Today I received a call about a powerful story of forgiveness and further mending of communities because of Geneva Councils Residency amendment for GPD police Chief. An emotional interaction of two men from very different cultures. One a former gang banger, and the other a former police officer, expressing empathy and understanding for one another. Two men from vary different cultures who would have otherwise never had this kind of exchange. When I heard this I thought to myself, “this is the greater purpose and impact I am working towards.”
This is the greater purpose of Councils decision. While some are more concerned with political expediency, or proving a point with dogmatic rhetoric, I’m more concerned with mending relationships like this. I’ve always said we who have been historically marginalized can not perpetuate what has been perpetrated against us and expect healing or change to occur. The actions of these two men are proof.
This was the practice and path that the late great Dr. Martin Luther King took. Love, non violence, and forgiveness. And I quote: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
I never claim to be perfect but I am trying my very best to do what I feel is right for my community even in the face of adversity but I must follow my heart and my core values from my deep Christian faith, which teaches me “Through love and kindness have I drawn them.” This report is the result.
Some people can write me off when we don’t see eye to eye, or follow their agenda and that’s ok because I understand that’s a part of the sometimes thankless job of a representative. As a man who truly believes in fair and impartial representation I can not represent one person or a small group. I must represent all 13.5 thousand Geneva citizens.
Maybe for some having the upper hand or being right is more important but those will never be my values. As I’ve always expressed, “I will always be true to who I am.”
It is unfortunate that I may lose friends over trying to do good or making unpopular decisions but I know true friends will always stay by my side even if we have different approaches, and that’s what’s what’s truly important to me. I will still love everyone in my community.
I’d like to thank those who helped support the greater purpose of this decision. Geneva NAACP President Luciel Mallard, Pastor Raul Fuentes, various community leaders, city staff, and fellow councilors.
I will continue to work for the greater good for our community.
Merry Christmas from the Gramling family to yours.
Response from Natalie Knott:
NOBODY who opposes your decision was concerned with “political expediency” or “dogmatic rhetoric.” You must not have listened to a single word your constituents said.
We are concerned with justice and the two tiered system of justice that exists in Geneva. You cherry picked convenient quotes from Dr. King, but Dr. King NEVER stood for placing pathos above justice or valuing symbolism over systemic change that helps entire communities.
Enforcing the residency requirement has NOTHING to do with love, non-violence or forgiveness. How dare you continue to obfuscate and manipulate the issue and denigrate the Genevans actually fighting for justice in Geneva. This was crony politics at its worst no matter how hard you try to pretend otherwise. It would be nice if councilors educated themselves on what justice actually looks like and how it should operate. Love and kindness are fine qualities, but they mean nothing if wielded in defense of the already powerful.
Shame on you for treating this real issue like it’s a petty and personal vendetta against you. It’s not about you. It’s about justice for all Genevans. If you can’t hold the police accountable for this mistake, how is anyone supposed to trust you or council to hold the police accountable on bigger issues?
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” -Dr King
“When we ask Negroes to abide by the law, let us also declare that the white man does not abide by law in the ghettos. Day in and day out he violates welfare laws to deprive the poor of their meager allotments; he flagrantly violates building codes and regulations; his police make a mockery of law; he violates laws on equal employment and education and the provisions of civil services. The slums are the handiwork of a vicious system of the white society; Negroes live in them, but they do not make them, any more than a prisoner makes a prison.” -Dr. King
It should also be noted that Gramling’s use of the word “hate” in relation to those who objected to the Council resolution is not only unfair, but irresponsible.