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York City Council president should surrender post following comments, member says

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch

York City Council member Lou Rivera on Thursday demanded that Henry Nixon resign his presidency of the City Council following comments Rivera called "prejudicial" about outgoing police Commissioner Osborne "Moe" Robinson III.

"His (Nixon's) comments, coming on the heels of racial tension, protests and rallies, disqualifies him from being a leader that represents the majority of this community," Rivera wrote Thursday in a statement.

Rivera was reacting to comments Nixon made Tuesday after Mayor Michael Helfrich said Robinson would resign less than a year into his tenure.

More:Mayor: York City's police commissioner to resign

More:Mayor names acting York City police chief

Lou Rivera, chairman of the local Latino advocacy nonprofit Latinos Unidos, announces his candidacy for York City Council during First Friday Latinos outside CASA's York City welcoming center Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

"When he was appointed, I was very hopeful. I was very pleased we would have an African-American commissioner," Nixon, a white man, said Tuesday night. "As time went on, I became more and more disenchanted with him, for his disdain for council … (and) his bad attitude."

Nixon was first elected to council in 2009 and has served as president since 2018.

He has been known to spar with Helfrich and his administration in public, offering what has been the strongest example of bad blood between the mayor and council. 

York City Council President Henry Nixon speaks during a town hall meeting concerning Mayor Michael Helfrich's hiring of Blanda Nace as chief opportunity development officer, Monday, June 24, 2019. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

And Nixon didn't hold back Tuesday from listing a litany of issues he had with Robinson following the police commissioner's resignation. 

Rivera, though, specifically took issues with with the fact Nixon commented on an "extremely sensitive situation prior to getting all the facts," with the council president citing recent allegations, he said.

Nixon on Tuesday criticized Robinson, a Black man, for allegedly denying a number of various training requests for officers.

He also said Robinson brought in consultants who worked for Baltimore City Police at the same time Robinson worked thereand that he was advised the consultants have questionable backgrounds.

On Thursday, Nixon rebuffed Rivera's demand that he cede his position as City Council president.

“I’ve always tried to do my very best for the public,” Nixon said. “That’s the reason I ran in the first place.”

York City Police Commissioner Osborne "Moe" Robinson III as community members gather in Continental Square in peaceful protest for George Floyd, to remember those who have died at the hands of police and to celebrate the communication experienced throughout the week between community members and officials in York City, Friday, June 5, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Council Vice President Sandie Walker would not say whether she agreed that Nixon should resign his leadership post. Rivera and Nixon are entitled to their opinions but don't speak for council as a whole, she said.

However, she said, the release of information about Robinson's departure and comments addressing it showed a lack of foresight and preparation — and serves as a distraction from ongoing issues, such as the struggling economy and race relations.

For example, council has yet to see a letter of resignation, and it's unclear whether Robinson was asked to resign or did so on his own, she said.

“Anything that is going to cause trauma in our community, you have to think twice before you comment,” Walker said. “That goes for Henry, that goes for Lou, that goes for the mayor.”

City officials have not given a reason for Robinson's departure, and the former commissioner has not responded to multiple inquiries for comment.

His tenure as police commissioner, although short-lived, took place amid nationwide racial unrest that also left a mark in York City.

Robinson was active and vocal during local protests, speaking directly to protesters about his own experiences with discrimination as a Black man.

The former commissioner was said to be hand-picked by former Police Chief Troy Bankert and joined the force as its top cop in January. He previously served as Reading's deputy police chief.

Before that, he rose to the rank of colonel in the Baltimore City Police Department.

Helfrich on Wednesday named York City Police Capt. Daniel Aikey acting chief of the York City Police Department until a replacement is found.

Reporter Liz Evans Scolforo contributed to this story. 

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.