The Arnold City Council in Pennsylvania voted Tuesday to ask Gov. Tom Wolf to remove Mayor Karen Peconi from office over social media comments that some residents found racist and offensive, KDKA-TV reported.
Peconi has been under fire for weeks for posts suggesting that those protesting the shooting death of Antwon Rose Jr. be hit with high-powered water hoses. Rose was shot by a police officer last month in East Pittsburgh.
Peconi also accused the protesters of not caring about jobs for the city of Pittsburgh because they were all unemployed.
In Peconi’s posts, she shared a video of water cannons being used on protesters, commenting “we need one of those” and “bring the hoses.” The council voted unanimously to petition to governor for her removal.
“I have based my life on what I saw in the 1960s in the south,” said Councilwoman Deborah Vernon, referencing the use of fire hoses against civil rights protesters. “It broke my heart then, and it breaks my heart now to remember that anybody could ever be so cruel to other people.”
What is the community outrage?
Peconi made a statement of apology at Tuesday’s city council meeting, which saw larger than normal attendance and protests beginning an hour before the meeting started. Her statement was interrupted with boos as she told the gathered crowd that she did not intend to resign.
“I want to apologize again,” Peconi said, according to the Tribune-Review. “It was never my intention to offend anyone. And for those who have been offended, I am sincerely sorry.”
Peconi went on to reiterate her commitment to improving the city of Arnold and fulfill the promises she made to the residents.
“Therefore, I am not planning to resign from the office of mayor of the City of Arnold and I will continue to serve as mayor,” Peconi said. “I also ask the residents, taxpayers and voters of the City of Arnold and any others that may have been offended by the Facebook post to accept my apology and rest assured that I will continue to work hard to improve the City of Arnold.”
Some residents felt the apology was not sincere.
“She knows she is wrong, she knows she is wrong, and what bothers me is that she is arrogant enough and she feels entitled,” said New Kensington resident Hannah McBean to KDKA. “I honestly don’t think she has conceptualized the whole thing and like really thought about it. She’s saying ‘I’m sorry’ because she got caught.”
What happens now?
According to Pennsylvania law, a mayor can be removed if she is impeached, convicted of a crime, or if the governor calls a hearing and two-thirds of the state Senate votes for her removal, KDKA reported.
Arnold solicitor David Regoli met with city council members to draft a letter to send to the governor, who will decide whether to proceed with a hearing about Peconi’s potential removal, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.