The day after Christmas, at 2:15 p.m., Alderman Ben MacShane posted on Facebook false and anonymous allegations of “years of widespread misconduct” on my part.
This alderman ambushed me. He has never raised these issues with me. He provided me no opportunity to respond, and no due process. Instead, he appointed himself judge and jury while demanding my resignation. He attempted to mobilize a mob on social media to destroy my reputation. The dark history of Black men like myself being wrongfully accused of this kind of misconduct is not lost on me, nor do I think it is lost on many in our community who are witness to these events.
My wife and three daughters are devastated. I am sad for them and for our community. For our family, the season of peace and joy turned ugly in an instant.
It is, of course, no coincidence that these disturbing allegations were made as I am preparing my campaign for mayor. In the 275-year history of our city, there has never been a Black mayor. I know some do not wish me to be the first. But I will not let Alderman MacShane’s falsehoods deter me. These types of tactics are a shameful part of our history. Fair-minded people have always rejected them.
Since Alderman MacShane’s ambush, I have been overwhelmed with support from the community, from my friends, and most of all, from my family. They have uniformly expressed strong support for my character. They have also expressed disgust for the manner in which Alderman MacShane made these allegations, and for the implicit support of his conduct by Mayor O’Connor. They can see that even the language used in these vague and unsubstantiated allegations seem to change with every mention. They know it’s not right. This should not be how we as elected officials conduct business in Frederick.
The idea that the mayor would hire lawyers, at public expense, to investigate his likely opponent on the eve of that election is outrageous. This taxpayer-funded witch hunt would be based on a slanderous Facebook post by the mayor’s ally, which contained the worst kind of innuendo: vague allegations by anonymous persons at unknown times with unexplained connections to the business of the city. This cannot be.
In my decades of professional and community service, I have never been the subject of a complaint that I am aware of. I support the right of every person who feels victimized or harassed by anyone to make a complaint. But Facebook should not be the place where these matters are adjudicated.
Two days after these allegations were first posted, I received a copy of a text message inviting people to a meeting hosted by Kate MacShane, Alderman MacShane’s wife. In the invitation, she was described as a clinical social worker and licensed psychotherapist. She invited guests to a confidential Zoom meeting on Dec. 28, 2020, at 8 p.m. to discuss me, offering the public the opportunity to attend with their video off and under an assumed name. The intent of the meeting was to share experiences and “discuss options for justice and explore next steps.” The source, who wishes to remain anonymous, shared the post with one of my advisers because they believed that Alderman MacShane had ulterior motives.
With great reluctance, I have retained counsel to determine whether I should bring an action against Alderman MacShane and his wife to stop this campaign of libel. The MacShanes’ living room should not be the place to decide these issues. Facebook should not be the forum to decide these issues. And certainly, individuals, boards and law firms subject to the control of Alderman MacShane and the mayor should not decide these issues.
I have been told that a jury of Frederick County citizens may be the only fair forum to vindicate my character. But I also know that litigation will not heal our community and may divide us even further apart. In the coming days and weeks, I will continue to meet with the citizens of Frederick, get advice from my attorney, family and friends, and prayerfully consider how to clear my good name.
To the citizens of Frederick, I have one humble request. Regardless of your opinion on this situation, I beg you to be kind to one another, online and in person. We have all suffered so much in the past year. The last thing we need now is to turn against each other during our greatest time of need. No matter who you are, or what party you belong to, we are all a part of this great community of Frederick. Let us treat each other with the respect and compassion of one neighbor to another.
For decades, I have served the Frederick community, on the board of Frederick Community College, the Fair Housing Commission, many service organizations, and now the Board of Aldermen. I will continue to serve on this board with pride and prepare my candidacy for mayor with a renewed determination to serve. I refuse to allow Alderman MacShane’s libelous allegations to silence my voice.