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Mayor's attack on Councilmember Campbell could back fire

Warwick Jones, Editor

There is something troubling about the matter of the Mayor's accusations about Councilman Campbell. It is not what Councilman Campbell allegedly has done, but rather how the matter has been handled. The surprise attack at the last Council meeting and the revelation in the Post and Courier (P&C) today that the Mayor is taking the issue to the Ethics Commission smells more of politics that righting any alleged wrong. The P&C reported on the Mayor's charges in the Thursday edition but the timing on the decision to take the issue to the Ethics Commission made it in time for the Sunday edition when circulation is the highest. Funny, if the Mayor felt so strongly, why didn't he announce his intention when he spoke to Council on Tuesday? Is he seeking political capital?

At the last Council meeting, the Mayor slammed Councilmember Campbell for suggesting that a developer make a contribution to a non- profit group for creation of "affordable housing" on the East Side. The Mayor and Council member Tinkler, who we suspect began the attack at the Mayor's behest, stated that there was a possibility his suggestion was made as a condition of obtaining the Councilmember's vote on a rezoning issue involving the developer.

Marc Knapp was at the meeting and reported on the encounter. It came out of the blue and with a fierce intensity. There is little doubt that Council member Campbell was not expecting the charge. As it questioned his probity, he could have reasonably expected the issue to first be discussed privately. Shouldn't the Mayor hold some respect for the position of Council member?

If the Mayor doubted the probity of Council member Campbell, the proper course was to confront him privately. If after such a meeting the Mayor maintained his opinion, he should have told the Council member so and also the planned course of action. Most likely this would be taking legal action and notifying all other Council members. Only at that time, should it have been discussed at Council meeting, I believe.

Let's look again at what Councilmember Campbell did. He requested a contribution be made to a non-profit group for "affordable housing" in his district from a developer. The developer planned a major condominium project in his district and the council member was looking for "mitigation". This may have been "quid pro quo" but not in the sense of a payoff. We are not acquainted sufficiently with the finer points of the law to judge whether there has been a breach of ethics. But if there was, it was not because the Council member was attempting to enrich himself. And it is wrong to taint the Councilmember with the suggestion that he was. There is no evidence that the Councilmember requested anything for himself.

Why is the Mayor doing this? Council elections are less than a year away and Council member Campbell will almost certainly be running again. And almost certainly the Mayor will be supporting someone else. So possibly this was the first shot in the re-election battle - an attempt to belittle Council member Campbell in the eyes of the voters. There have been some other suggestions that the move is related to the possibility of Council member Gallant stepping down from Council but the relationship is tenuous.

In the eye of voters, what are the chances of the opprobrium being thrown by the mayor clinging? I was sitting in front of some African Americans when the Mayor and Councilmember Tinkler began their onslaught. There were gasps from the row behind. They were gasps of shock but not for what the Council member had allegedly done. It was at the audacity of the Mayor to make such accusations. They knew that Council member Campbell is a constant critic of the Mayor and could expect payback. But they did not like the manner and malice of the accusation. There is no doubt as to whom they will be supporting next November.

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