Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer apologized Wednesday to the City Council and the people of the city for some of his actions and words over the recent “deeply troubling and traumatizing” weeks.
Those actions and communications he said were “inconsistent with the collaboration required by our system of government” and “overstepped the bounds as my role as Mayor.”
Signer and others in Charlottesville leadership have come under fire as the city reeled from its handling of the white supremacist Unite the Right rally on Aug. 12 that left three dead and a smaller July 8 rally by the Ku Klux Klan. Both demonstrations were organized in response to the City Council’s decision earlier this year to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a downtown park.
Following widespread criticism of Charlottesville’s response, Signer had sought to distance himself from the handling of the event. Charlottesville is typical of many Virginia municipalities in that the mayor does not have strong executive powers. The police chief reports to the city manager, not the mayor, and Signer had been unhappy that he did not know details about the city’s security plans for the rally. He also was upset that he had not been allowed in the city’s command center during the rally. He was publicly critical of City Manager Maurice Jones and Police Chief Al Thomas.
Some in the city felt he had overreached. Signer acknowledged as much in his statement saying his actions “included an ill-advised Facebook post that impugned the reputations of our City Manager Maurice Jones and our Chief of Police Al Thomas, for which I sincerely apologize.”
The mayor’s apology followed a rare closed-door session of the Charlottesville City Council Wednesday to “discuss the performance and discipline of an elected official.”
In his statement Signer said he would commit to four protocols for the remainder of this year. Most of those had to do with his interaction with the city’s professional staff and collaborating with City Council members. He also said he “would not make public pronouncements or announcements as Mayor without working with my Colleagues and the City Manager beforehand and ensuring their consent.”
Though the council had authority to impose a fine on the mayor or even vote to remove him, it chose to do neither. Instead council members accepted the mayor’s apology and affirmed their support for him.
In its statement, the Charlottesville City Council, said it, “Reiterates shared responsibility for good governance and conveys Council’s commitments to working effectively together for the best interests of the City and its people.”
The council, including Signer, also released a separate statement. “We all faced a horrible tragedy in Charlottesville, a city we all love,” it read in part. “Collectively as leaders, and on behalf of everyone in our great community, we stand up for our City and stand against hate and racism. We pledge to work together as the City continues to heal.”