‘Detroit CFO must go’
Coalition calls on removal of Jim Bonsall
By Zenobia Jeffries
The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — The Michigan Chapter of the National Action Network is demanding the immediate termination of Detroit Chief Financial Officer Jim Bonsall.
Bonsall was suspended with pay last week for sexist and racist remarks in the workplace, for which he apologized.
“It was never my intention to offend anyone,” he wrote in a press statement.
During a staff meeting about the upcoming Angels’ Night activities, which include city staff members patrolling the city to keep it safe from arson and vandalism on that night, Bonsall asked if he could “shoot somebody in a hoodie.”
“Jim Bonsall should not be sent for vacation; he should be sent for termination,” said Rev. Charles D. Williams, II at a press conference Oct. 14. “There’s no reason why someone who’s considered a public servant could make these remarks and go back to work.”
Williams, president of Michigan NAN, said the organization joined other local groups to call on the mayor, city council, the emergency manager and Gov. (Rick) Snyder to remove Bonsall immediately.
“There’s no reason we cannot have someone in that position who is sensitive enough to this community,” Williams said. “A community that’s over 86 percent African American. A community that had thousands of folks who marched and demonstrated against the verdict of Trayvon Martin’s (killer). A community that lives everyday under the threat of police brutality…”
William called Bonsall’s remarks, “insensitive,” inflammatory” and “racist.” He said the coalition will demonstrate until Bonsall’s removal.
“We expect for (Bonsall) to be a national name, if by the end of this week (he) is still working in the city of Detroit.”
Rev. David Bullock of the Change Agent Consortium added the group is also calling for a zero tolerance policy for racist speech and demeaning language and any comments that will further divide the city.
“We should not be dividing ourselves, we should be building bridges so we all can benefit from the recovery,” he said. “The joke defense does not work. To demonized African American youth, to joke about the Trayvon Martin case, to take the gains we’ve made around Angels’ Night and somehow minimize the positive work of community leaders and to do that while being surrounded by African American women … to use this kind of language in that context and call it a joke … there’s nothing about working in the city of Detroit that licenses disrespectful behavior, there’s nothing about working in the city of Detroit that will allow anyone the leeway to joke about Trayvon Martin, to joke about Angels’ Night and to joke about women and somehow think that’s ok.”
Attorney Jerry Goldberg, Moratorium Now, said Bonsall’s comments, are indicative of the attitudes in Gov. Rick Snyder and EM Kevyn Orr’s administration.
“What those statements reflected was the broader colonial mentality that’s characterizing emergency management in this city, that’s characterizing the bankruptcy in this city,” Goldberg said. “Where they’re looting our city $62 million in fees, getting ready to take Belle Isle, take the workers’ pensions, eliminate the contracts.”
He added that the comments are systematic of “this whole process that’s going on where people from outside, with their racist colonial mentality that are trying to take our city.”
Currently, the city is conducting an investigation to determine whether or not Bonsall’s remarks “contributed to creating a hostile work environment,” says Bill Nowling in Orr’s office. “The EM has said he will wait until the internal investigation (is completed) before determining what disciplinary action is warranted.”
Calls to Gov. Snyder’s office were not returned by press time.
See related story here: http://michigancitizen.com/em-appointee-demeans-black-women-makes-racist-remarks/