City Council: ‘Whitewashed’ Comments Poor Choice Of Words
Several members of the Jamestown City Council disagree with Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist’s comment that the city’s employment policies are “Whitewashed.”
During the last “Justice June” rally held at Dow Park Sunday, June 28, Sundquist said the reintroduction of the Jamestown Commission on Human Rights will, “help us as a city know where we need to go, help us as a city be more inclusive.” He continued by stating, “I know that we have some policies that are frankly whitewashed. We have policies here in the city that say, ‘If you’re white, you get the job.’ Those are the things that we need to change, those are the things that I’m committed to changing here in this city.”
Tamu Graham-Reinhardt, At-Large councilwoman, said the whitewashed comment was a poor choice of words.
“I don’t know what his intent was. I know we do have to follow some strict policies for equal employment. The department heads have to look at several qualified candidates,” she said. “I think whitewashed is a poor choice of words.”
Anthony Dolce, council president, said he felt the term whitewashed was a “bit harsh” in describing the city’s employment policies. He said the Equal Employment Opportunity Policy Statement was updated by the council in October 2019.
“The (Equal Employment Opportunity) Policy was state recommended. It deals with everything from bullying to sexual harassment to racism to cyber issues,” he said.
Dolce said it is a challenge for city officials to recruit minorities.
“It’s a very difficult practice. We have to follow strict guidelines when it comes to civil service jobs,” he said. “It’s a complex issue, and to suggest that we only hire white people is inaccurate and a bit strong.”
Kimberly Ecklund, At-Large councilwoman, said she has received several phone calls from constituents asking what Sundquist meant by the whitewashed comment.
“I received multiple phone calls from people who were surprised and taken aback,” she said. “I thought (the comment) was extremely inappropriate. I for one know there are minorities employed by city government. My spouse (Keith Ecklund) is the only Asian I believe to (be a member) of the (Jamestown) Fire Department.”
Jeff Russell, At-Large councilman, said — as a retired Jamestown Police Department employee of more than 20 years — there are few minorities applying to be a police officer.
“I cannot speak for all departments, but on the police side there aren’t many (minority) applicants there. I would like to see more,” he said. “On the police side, there is a minimum of two years of college and then you have to apply for the academy and get through that, which is roughly six months long. Then you have to take the civil service test and score in the top three. From what I’ve seen personally, we’re not seeing minority applicants locally.”
Russell said during his career working with the Jamestown Police Department, he worked with two African Americans, with one leaving after nine years on the force to work for the FBI and the other who recently retired from the JPD. He also said there are several women police officers working for the city’s police department. He added that there is also a Hispanic officer who is bilingual working for the JPD.
“I didn’t see it as a whitewashed problem. It’s a lack of applicants,” he said.
Tom Nelson, Ward 6 councilman, said during his tenure on the council he has not seen a whitewashed problem.
“It’s nothing I’ve experienced and nothing I’ve seen,” he said.
Nelson said he believes Sundquist, who is in his first seven months as mayor, has dealt with a lot of issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and issues of race in city government.
“He has been faced with some tough things as a young mayor,” he said. “I think he’s doing a great job.”
All five of the council members believe it’s a good idea for Sundquist to reintroduce the Jamestown Commission on Human Rights.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Graham-Reinhardt said. “When (Sundquist) announced (Jamestown Commission on Human Rights), I cautioned Eddie about it needing to be a cross section from all members of the community. It shouldn’t be stacked with just African Americans and Latinos. It should also include the elderly and people with disabilities. We need to be thinking about all of the people in the community to ensure everyone’s voice is being heard.”
The Post-Journal also contacted Brent Sheldon, Ward 1 councilman, Vickye James, Ward 3 councilwoman, Marie Carrubba, Ward 4 councilwoman, and Grant Olson, Ward 5 councilman, for their opinions, but didn’t receive a response.