Kenosha County Executive Samantha Kerkman, who served 22 years in the legislature as a republican, has announced that she removed four conservatives from the County’s Racial Ethnic and Equity Commission. Her appointments gave control of the mostly powerless board to its chairman, conservative attorney Xavier Solis.
Solis was elected as the commission’s chairman in May of this year. Since then, the commission has researched data on disparities amongst education, housing, law enforcement, healthcare and more. They have reviewed county ordinances, policies, and procedures. The opinions expressed by the commission have been extremely unpopular among liberals in Kenosha – in fact there has been a large movement by the Kenosha County Democrat party to lobby Kerkman to remove the conservative members. The members that Kerkman is removing consists of an African-American real estate investor and entrepreneur named Cortney Marshall, a Native-American business owner named Duane O’Keefe, a Mexican-American retired law enforcement officer and minister named Brian Gonzalez, and the commission’s chairman, Mexican-American attorney Xavier Solis.
Kerkman’s plan is to rescind all of her appointments and leave the commission dormant. Doing this, as she must have anticipated has irked both sides of the political divide.
On October 19, 2023 at a regularly scheduled commission meeting, there was a brief conversation between Solis and an activist named Troy Landry. Landry’s supporters claim that Solis called him “boy” during the meeting. Landry didn’t think the word “boy” was said until many days later. Most people don’t hear the word “boy” when they watch the video. Kerkman, however believed that the word was in fact said. Terry Rose, an 81-year-old attorney on the board, also believes that the word was used. An audio expert was hired and at Thursday’s meeting is prepared to give the report refuting the claim that Solis said “Boy.” Kerkman also cited as a reason for her removing the conservatives, the fact that Steffany Caputo live-streamed her county board appearance on Tuesday night. “I get all the blame for everything,” Kerkman said Wednesday. Kerkman was also furious when Solis wore a “Mom’s For Liberty” sweatshirt for one of the meetings. She demanded that Solis didn’t wear the sweatshirt anymore becuase she views the group as a hate-group.
KCE reached out to Kerkman early Wednesday with some tough questions. She instead, however, issued a disingenuous press release that reads in part:
“The current state of the Racial and Ethnic Equity Commission does not align with or fulfill the
mission set out by the County Board. The recent events have further demonstrated how the
commission’s actions have deep impact in our community. Therefore, I am rescinding all of the County Executive appointees to the commission effective immediately, and I encourage the County Board to take the steps needed to disband the commission.”
As Kerkman points out, but glosses over, she does not have the authority to disband the commission. A lawyer KCE spoke with today read the bylaws and concluded that Kerkman’s removal of the four conservatives is not legal. Kerkman asked the universally shunned attorneys at the County’s Corporation Counsel to issue her an opinion that says she has the authority to do so.
Republicans and Democrats Both Are Irked
Conservative and commissioner Brian Gonzales was upset with today’s news.
“I am disappointed in county leadership . I am disappointed that they did not recognize the lies being told about the conservative minorities that were appointed to the Racial and Ethnic Equity commission. Rather than standing up for what was right they instead capitulated to the lies of the extremist in our community. This type of feckless behavior seems to be endemic in the so called “non partisan right side of the aisle.”
Liberal commissioner Andy Berg was equally upset with the news in a statement to KCE. His statement, in part, says:
“By removing all County Executive appointments, and having no intention of appointing new members is disingenuous to the the community as a whole…There are plenty of qualified residents that have applied and were passed over for whatever reasons. Running away from the problems doesnt fix what needs to be fixed.”
“Kerkman’s decision is a shot to the gut to all of us on the commission who spent hours trying to better our community. All of our work will now go un-implemented. Kerkman surrendered her values to a group of extremists. The meeting will still take place as scheduled tomorrow. The County Executive has no authority to remove us. We will be meeting at the job center located at 8600 Sheridan Rd. The public, of course welcome to attend. We will go through the agenda as it was set.”
Kenosha County Eye will be present at the meeting.