Troy mayor asks for forgiveness, vows to stay in office

Daniels says she meant gay slur as a joke

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published December 7, 2011

 Protestors assemble on Big Beaver in front of Troy City Hall the afternoon of Dec. 5 in reaction to Mayor Janice Daniels’ use of the word “queers” in a Facebook posting.

Protestors assemble on Big Beaver in front of Troy City Hall the afternoon of Dec. 5 in reaction to Mayor Janice Daniels’ use of the word “queers” in a Facebook posting.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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Despite numerous calls for Troy Mayor Janice Daniels to resign due to a June Facebook post slurring gay people, Daniels asked for forgiveness and said she plans to move forward as mayor.

“I made a comment in a moment I will regret for a lifetime,” Daniels said.

The issue came to light Dec. 2, and the post reportedly stated, “I think I am going to throw away my ‘I love New York’ bag now that queers can get married there.”

Before public comment at the Dec. 5 City Council meeting, Daniels said “I regret what I said. I do believe marriage should be between one man and one woman. It was inappropriate to use that language.

“When I wrote it, it was meant to be a joke,” she said.

“I ask God for forgiveness,” she said. “I ask you for forgiveness.”

She has since deactivated her Facebook account.

Public comment at the meeting lasted more than four hours.

Many local students spoke, saying Daniels’ words were hurtful and promote bullying gay people.

Amanda Breitner, 21, a Troy resident who attends Oakland University, said the comment was hurtful and degrading. “Your thoughtless actions show a lack of foresight,” she said, adding that she questions Daniels’ effectiveness as a leader. “You’ve embarrassed me. I think an apology is not enough.”

“Anti-gay slurs are and must be intolerable,” said Denise Brogan-Kator, executive director of Equality Michigan, an advocacy group for gay and transgender people. “If you could see us as your neighbor or co-worker, you would see it was wrong to call a group of people names.”

Edward Bondy of Royal Oak said it was a unique opportunity for Daniels to be trained in sensitivity and diversity. “There are resources available.”

Troy resident Barbara Yagley said she believes some people are exploiting the situation to remove Daniels from office, and she hopes Daniels does not resign.

“You did this as a private citizen long before you were mayor,” resident Tony Cruz said. “First Amendment rights apply even when you say something less than popular. Your apology was more than gracious. We need to accept it and move on.”

However, many feel that the mayor should go. “Resign or you will be recalled,” resident Rob Hendrickson said.

Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm said nothing can be done with regards to formal action against Daniels without due process. The council can censure Daniels or pass a resolution calling for her resignation, which it has not done.

Troy City Clerk Aileen Bittner said Michigan election laws state that elected officials may not be recalled in the first or last six months they hold office. The recall process is handled at the county level and would require 7,992 signatures, or 25 percent of the number of Troy votes in the last gubernatorial election.

Mayor Pro Tem Maureen McGinnis said all members of council should sign the Council Code of Ethics, which she said should be amended to caution elected officials against making electronic communication that may be derogatory.

“I’m thoroughly dismayed,” she said. “I’m disappointed. We’re better than this. I think we can rectify the situation. You’re there; you were voted in. Something like this cannot be tolerated.”

“We are not a bigoted city,” Councilman Wade Fleming said. “To characterize Troy as that is just wrong. There is no room for name calling. I really believe you regret doing that. I believe you’re sincerely apologetic. … The code of ethics is a start.”

“Someone had to dig this out,” he said of the Facebook post. “They were looking for something negative, and they found it.”

“We may never know the full extent of the damage caused,” Councilman Dane Slater said. “You are not a victim. The city of Troy and businesses are the victim. I am upset. I’m embarrassed. And I don’t believe the council should ask for your resignation. It’s up to the public to decide what to do. Any city employee who would have done this would have been fired. I do hope you learn from this. The citizens will have the last word. I’m ready to move on,” he said.

“The person who put this (Daniel’s Facebook posting) out there should be equally ashamed,” Councilman Dave Henderson said.

Troy City Manager John Szerlag said Troy is the second most diverse city in the state. “We are extremely proud of and enriched by our diversity,” he said in a prepared statement. “We respect everyone who lives here and does business in the city of Troy, and encourage people and businesses to continue to locate here. Troy has a council-manager form of government. This means that all employees with the exception of the city attorney’s department work for the city manager. Council sets policy, and the manager and staff execute it. As such, City Council can only speak formally through their resolutions. Personal comments made by the mayor and any individual council member are just that.”
 

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