Mayor Charles Wasko appears to have two passions, according to his public Facebook posts: antique cars and incendiary political memes.
Another depicts a dog covered in a towel, with only its eyes and snout showing. “Guide dog for a Muslim woman,” it says. “It’s call a Barka.”
Probably the most inflammatory one was about President Obama. It shows a picture of actor Clint Eastwood in the film “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” — and a noose. “Barry, this rope is for you,” the caption says, referring to a nickname for the first black president. “You wanna bring that empty chair over here!”
That last post has been deleted — it’s unclear whether Facebook or Wasko took it down — but many others still stand, vexing embarrassed borough residents, who have called for Wasko to resign.
“He left no one behind in his hate,” Shawn Mauck, the borough council president, told The Washington Post. “I don’t think there’s a protected class or a group that he did not hate on. … When I saw the posts, I wanted to throw up.”
West York residents called for Wasko be kicked out of office at two meetings, including one Monday night, when the borough council voted to censure him.
“We also voted to approve expending any legal means to get him out of office,” Mauck said Tuesday morning. “If we’re able to draft articles of impeachment, we’ll be ready and well-situated to participate in that.”
Several people at the meetings said Wasko was a product of the nation’s political climate and compared the mayor to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“I think the age of Trump has given a license for this kind of activity,” Mauck said.
A petition demanding Wasko’s resignation on MoveOn.org has been signed by more than 1,450 people — a number about equal to about a third of the borough’s population.
According to Census figures, 8.5 percent of the borough’s residents are black; 9.1 percent are Hispanic or Latino.
York City resident has the floor: Speaking about a lifetime of facing racism. "I can't believe I have to stand here and do it again."— Ivey DeJesus (@iveydejesus) October 3, 2016
“Your racism is a disgrace to the state of Benjamin Franklin and an affront to all Americans,” Susan Zimecki said in a comment on the MoveOn.org petition.
Dani Rodkey of York wrote: “It would be his last honorable action as the Mayor of West York, to resign with dignity without dragging it out.”
That seems unlikely.
Wasko, defiant, told local ABC affiliate WHTM that the controversy is being stoked by his enemies to deflect attention from political corruption and misdeeds. He vowed to publicly expose them.
“The racist stuff, I admit, I did that,” he told WHTM. “I don’t care what people label me as. But it’s just a smoke screen, to cover up what’s really going on.”
The reporter asked if he regretted the posts or the people he has offended.
“No, I don’t,” he said before quickly moving on. “I’m not going to talk about the racial stuff. That is immaterial right now.”
Wasko, a Republican, did not return calls or messages for this article. He was elected in 2013, when he ran unopposed.
As West York’s mayor, he has mostly ceremonial duties. The mayor has some oversight over the police department and can invoke emergency powers in an urgent situation. According to Mauck, Wasko is opinionated but mostly harmless.
“He was a bombastic guy,” he said. “If he didn’t agree with you, he told you, but more likely he’d always get in someone’s face.”
But now the de facto face of West York borough has garnered international attention for his incendiary posts.
His constituents held a public forum Saturday about the mayor.
Others signed up to make public comments at Monday’s borough council meeting, which had to be moved to a larger hall.
The line of people who signed up to speak spilled out of the room and snaked around the corner. Police stood guard.
Carla Christopher, a West York resident, told the crowd that Wasko was “not just distasteful. He is dangerous,” according to a PennLive reporter.
Despite the groundswell of people demanding that Wasko leave office, Mauck said, Pennsylvania law makes it difficult to remove an elected official — especially one who hasn’t committed a crime.
The council is lobbying the Pennsylvania legislature for the super-majority needed to remove Wasko.
Mauck said the council “stands with the people that are saying loud and clear that they want him to resign. We are looking at every legal method we can take to remove him from office. Hopefully we can put a plan forward shortly.”
This post, originally published on Oct. 3, has been updated.