In a contentious meeting that the Akron Beacon Journal described as a “racially tinged public display of dysfunction,” the Akron City Council missed the deadline to name their nominees for the new Citizen’s Police Oversight Board.
In a meeting that lasted 5 hours, running from 7 p.m. to midnight, the council voted 6 times, each time failing to secure the 9 votes needed to approve their list of nominees.
As laid out in the Issue 10 charter, the legislation that established the guidelines for the new police oversight board, city council needed a supermajority to approve their list of candidates. But time and time again, the same 4 council members held firm in their opposition to the nominees.
One nominee in particular gave council members pause, Imokhai Okolo, a 27-year-old black attorney from Ward 3. While council members offered varying reasons as to their opposition, a Facebook post by Okolo was certainly one point of contention.
In the post Okolo reportedly referred to police officers as “pigs.” When addressing the board Okolo defended himself noting that the post in question was made during the height of the Jayland Walker protests and came from a place of anger. Okolo added that, “One social media post does not define who I am as an individual.”
At-Large Councilman Jeff Fusco had other reasons for not supporting Okolo’s nomination, telling the Beacon Journal that he had made a commitment to private citizens that he would not support Okolo. When asked directly by a reporter, Fusco revealed that the citizen he had made that commitment to was head of the Akron police union Clay Cozart.
Many council members stood firm in their support of Okolo’s nomination claiming that, as a young black man, his perspective on the board is needed, with Ward 1 Councilwoman Nancy Holland saying that Okolo “holds a view and a range of experiences and an identity in this community that makes his voice not only relevant but deeply, deeply significant to the task at hand.”
As activists and citizens waited in council chambers through closed door meetings, multiple discussions, and multiple votes, the day came to an end with no decision made. As the clock struck midnight, the council missed the stated deadline of Monday the 27th to name their nominees. Now the way forward is unclear.
As reported by Ideastream Public Media council President Margo Sommerville said "If this body cannot come together to make a decision, then yes, we are in contempt. What does that mean? We don't know, and we got to find that out, and we'll let you know when we know."
To read more, including the events that led to Monday’s contested council meeting visit The Akron Beacon Journal.