While the novel coronavirus pandemic’s deadly toll marches on, a sideshow scoreboard is counting up local politicians.
In a special two-hour remote meeting Friday night, the Antioch City Council voted unanimously to remove Ken Turnage II from his seat on the city planning commission following his social media posting about “culling the herd” during the COVID-19 crisis.
The comments fueled an online viral uproar that culminated in the local builder’s booting from his appointed commission term. During the public video meeting, a city official read off 92 one-minute email comments sent to the city government website.
The email remarks on Turnage’s posting ranged from “a social posting about a sociopathic world” to analogies to Nazi Germany, as well as “despicable,” “appalling,” “a black eye for Antioch,” “ignorant witch hunt” and “run him off the commission and run him out of town.”
Turnage’s Facebook posting, now removed, said that “the World has been introduced to a new phrase Herd Immunity which is a good one. In my opinion we need to adapt a Herd Mentality. A herd gathers it ranks, it allows the sick, the old, the injured to meet its natural course in nature.”
He added, “then we have our other sectors such as our homeless and other people who just defile themselves by either choice or mental issues. This would run rampant through them and yes i am sorry but this would fix what is a significant burden on our Society and resources that can be used.”
After reports came from Bay City News, other newspapers, TV stations and websites, the now national reaction online and on the airwaves was heated and “vitriolic” as one commenter said.
Turnage insisted last week he had no intention of resigning or backing down from his comments. He also strongly objected to being called racist saying his position was simply an issue of “ecological balance.” He said he was “baffled” by the reaction to what he called his personal opinion.
At the opening of the video meeting Friday, Turnage was allowed to read a statement in his defense via phone and said, “My personal opinion had nothing to do with the city or my position on the Planning Commission. So to try to somehow link them or create a nexus to further your political agendas is shameful.”
He added, “Having it viewed as offensive speech, then targeting me with repercussion for this is a direct violation of my First Amendment Rights and should not happen under our Constitution!”
Turnage then made a formal request for “all documents that pertain to this matter to include but not limited to e-mails, text messages, recorded phone conversations etc. between and amongst Council Members and City Staff related to my personal post.”
Turnage also called the special meeting a possible Brown Act violation and potentially illegal. He added “it would be nice if certain council members stop race baiting to further their political agendas.”
Before the vote, Council member Lamar Thorpe noted “the loss in confidence that the posting had caused. The public was incensed.”
Council member Lori Ogorchock deplored “the disruption to the city” by the “insensitive remarks.” She also asked staff if appointees to commissions are given adequate training. Mayor Sean Wright noted politicians are held to a higher standard by representing the city to all. Council members Monica Wilson and Joy Motts joined in the 5-0 vote to remove Turnage.