WATERLOO — City Councilman Jerome Amos Jr. has accused two colleagues of making racially insensitive remarks at weekly meetings.
Amos, the city’s only African-American council member, said councilmen Steve Schmitt and Tom Lind have made several comments over the past year he found inappropriate.
“I don’t want controversy on this council, and I’m not out to cause anybody any problems, but somewhere down the line this needs to stop,” Amos said. “These things should not be said.”
Amos, who sits between Schmitt and Lind at council meetings, said Schmitt had called the seating arrangment “a reverse Oreo cookie” and also said he looked like a “Cadillac kind of guy,” which he took to have racial undertones.
He said Lind made a reference to “wearing a hood” at Monday’s meeting, the day after Mayor Quentin Hart had accused Lind in an email exchange of making “racist, derogatory, partisan” remarks.
Amos broke his silence about the matter after the email exchange became public. He had spoken about his concerns with Hart, the city’s first African-American mayor, and believed it played a role in Hart’s sharp reaction to Lind.
Lind had criticized the mayor for appointing a part-time communications director without council approval, adding, “You work for us. Obama (yesterday) is gone.”
Hart responded he would “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.”
Lind said the Obama reference referred to the former president’s penchant for approving executive orders and bypassing Congress and objected to Hart demeaning his character.
Lind declined Friday to discuss Amos’ comments.
Schmitt, however, said he was disheartened by what he heard from Amos, who he’s known for 30 years and who he encouraged to run for council “as I thought he was a well-intentioned individual who would be above such petty, partisan political comments.”
Schmitt said he’d noticed a nice Cadillac in the council parking lot one evening and, since he knew what other members drove, he assumed it was Amos’ and congratulated him on the car.
“He seemed caught off guard, and said it wasn’t his and why would I think it was?” he said. “I assumed he was joking. Council member (Ron) Welper overheard us and said it was his wife’s car. I couldn’t understand why Jerome disliked Sharon Welper’s car, as I thought it was pretty nice.”
Schmitt said he does not remember the “Oreo” comment.
“If you watch Jerome, Tom and I before meetings, we are usually joking and laughing and I have never noticed Jerome take offense at anything that was said,” Schmitt said. “I usually make some comment along the lines of ‘the liberal sitting between the two conservatives’ and then reference that I am sitting between Ron and Jerome so I am the conservative sitting between the two liberals.”
Schmitt said he did support Lind’s right to question the hiring of a communications director, agreeing Hart should have sought council approval.
“Rather than having a calm, mature and adult conversation about if the mayor will follow the rules, and how this hiring and others will impact the budget, the mayor reacts by calling Councilman Lind names … threatens Councilman Lind on any possible future questioning and, finally, unleashes a list of verbs and adverbs not based on fact, just his opinion.”
City Attorney Dave Zellhoefer and City Clerk Kelley Felchle said Hart did follow the proper process and had authority to hire a part-time position without seeking council approval. Under Waterloo’s form of government, the mayor serves as the city’s administrator and has broad authority on many personnel issues.