Thursday, August 31, 2000

Waynesville mayor vows to fight recall, not quit

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WAYNESVILLE — One of only three adult blacks in his Warren County village, Mayor Charles Sanders said Wednesday he will not resign over a controversy that began when he accused the police department of racial profiling.

        “I'm going to stand my ground, I guarantee that,” said Mr. Sanders, who was served with a recall petition Tuesday. “I'm not going to let the people down who gave me a vote of confidence” in November's election.

Charles Sanders
Charles Sanders
        On Tuesday, the Warren County Board of Elections validated 209 signatures of registered voters. Twenty-five percent of those who voted in the November election, 189 signatures, were required to force a vote.

        Mr. Sanders has five days from Tuesday to resign or face a recall vote. Village Council could decide at its Sept. 5 meeting to hold the recall election during the Nov. 7 general election. If not, a separate elec tion could cost about $2,500, said Clerk of Council Linda Jones.

        Among those who signed the recall petition were Police Chief Allen Carter; Village Councilmen Ernest Lawson and Phil Day; and Village Council President Sandra Stemple, who lost a race against Mr. Sanders last fall, 444-289.

        Chief Carter said he signed the petition because, “I think everybody needs to be held accountable for (their) actions.”

        In March, Mr. Sanders accused Chief Carter of condoning racial profiling in his department. The mayor's charge came after three black men said they were stopped by two village police officers on Feb. 26 for alleged traffic violations, held at gunpoint and handcuffed. The men, who were released without charges or citations after police searched the car for drugs, said they had been visiting a white friend in Waynesville.

        During a heated village council meeting on March 6, Mr. Sanders rejected calls for his resignation. Council passed an ordinance prohibiting village police from using race to decide whether a driver should be stopped. The Dayton branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People got involved, taking sides with the mayor.

        A Warren County Sheriff's Office's report in May cleared the two village officers of engaging in racial profiling during the traffic stop. However, the report questioned why the stop was not taped even though the village cruiser was mounted with a video camera. The report also raised concerns that the officers did not radio their location to the county communications center.

        Mr. Day said he and many people in Waynesville are unhappy with Mr. Sanders' leadership. He said the way the mayor handled the incident “really cast the town in a bad light.” He also said Mr. Sanders has put his mayoral duties on the back burner while he runs for Congress.

        “I feel that the mayor's actions and the way he's handled things from a leadership role in this town has been inappropriate,” Mr. Day said.

        Mr. Sanders said he has not let the controversy disrupt his job as mayor in this rural village of 2,500 known for its quiet lifestyle and antiques shops.

        “I will not be dissuaded by a few people who have their heads stuck back in the 50s,” he said. “I think that it's sour grapes. They don't defeat me at the polls, and they saw an opportunity to come in and accomplish the task through some other means.”

        Mr. Sanders has been on Village Council for 10 years.

        Bill Stubbs of Waynesville said the controversy surrounding the mayor has had little impact on the town, but he hasn't excused the mayor's behavior.

        “The mayor behaved in a very inappropriate manner for his own political gain and it backfired on him,” said Mr. Stubbs, 65. “Most people come to town for business purposes and don't know anything about it. Most people who come to town and do know something about it realize what he was doing — he's running for United States Congress. The Democratic Party won't support him, he has no money, so he's getting this publicity any way he can get it.”

        Linda and Dick Hoppe, owners of Crazy Quilt Antiques on Main Street, said they voted for Mr. Sanders in the last two elections.

        “Personally, I like the mayor and I have not signed any petition. But I regret the undue publicity that this incident has caused for the town,” said Mrs. Hoppe, 59.

        Mr. Hoppe, 61, said, “There are a lot of people who are upset with what has happened.” He said voters should decide the mayor's fate.

        Bob Gilbert, owner of Bottle Works in the historic Main Street district, said he thinks the mayor hurt his credibility.

        The 74-year-old said the mayor's troubles have not been a hot topic around town.

        “The closing of a local antique shop probably causes more conversation,” he said.


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