WATERLOO — Mayor Quentin Hart has accused Councilman Tom Lind of “racist, derogatory, partisan” threats in a testy email exchange over his decision to appoint a communications director.
The emails provided anonymously to The Courier but confirmed by both parties relate to Hart’s decision to hire Wendy Bowman to work 10 to 15 hours a week promoting the city’s image.
“Not appropriate without council approval,” Lind said in a Jan. 22 email. “You work for us. Obama (yesterday) is gone.”
Hart responded Lind’s “racist, derogatory, partisan threats have no impact on me and never will.”
“I have not done anything wrong and you should be ashamed of yourself to address me in such a manner,” Hart said in the email. “If you ever disrespect me again in this manner, I will make sure the entire community is aware of who you really are.
“I am the Mayor for the City of Waterloo, you are a councilman. Understand your role,” Hart added. “I will no longer accept the disrespect, slander, threats, being called out of my name, or your racist partisan Obama comments from you or anyone else on this email.”
The email exchange was forwarded by Lind to Councilmen Steve Schmitt and Bruce Jacobs, along with residents Steve Murphy, Bob Reisinger, Chris Shimp, Lind’s brother Jim and former resident Josh Wilson.
Reached Thursday, Lind said his comment about Barack Obama was a reference to the former president’s “tendency to bypass Congress and work by executive order.”
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“It’s unfortunate that Mayor Hart saw my email as some sort of racial attack, however I am not surprised,” Lind said. “In today’s political climate when disagreements occur it seems to have become custom to immediately attack someone’s character.”
Lind said he believes his job as a councilman is to provide a check on local government, including the mayor’s office.
“Too often my colleagues and I find out about city business by reading about it in the paper rather than being kept in the loop by the mayor or city staff,” he said. “That is unfortunate.”
Hart said the email mentioning Obama was just part of a pattern of disrespectful comments, some with racial underpinnings, he’s received during his first year as mayor.
Schmitt publicly called Hart a “mayor in training” during a debate over Hart’s travel request to attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June and later mocked his educational background in an email to other council members. Hart said other comments with negative undertones have been expressed.
“The fact of the matter is, former President Obama has nothing to do with the conversation about a part-time position, which other mayors have been afforded the opportunity to hire,” Hart said.
“I have worked with organizations, as the director of multicultural affairs at Hawkeye Community College, traveled the state and the country bringing people together and training people on diversity issues,” he said.
“(Lind’s) comments are the opposite of building bridges, which I’m trained to do,” he added. “This isn’t productive, and it has to stop.”