BY: Sophie Walsh
May 23, 2018
MCKINNEY- The McKinney City Council met in a special session Wednesday night, May 23, in response to the recent action of District 1 Representative and Councilman, La’shadion Shemwell.
The council opened this special session with citizen comments, allowing sixteen citizens to voice their opinions on the issue openly to the council. Following this advisory period, which was filled with strong statements predominantly expressing anger and embarrassment on behalf of the city and its citizens, the council deliberated, and following the motion of Councilman Shemwell, approved the Resolution.
“It appears that this whole issue has been overblown … and maybe Mr. Shemwell did exceed his role to speak in the name of the Police Chief in the incident described,” said McKinney local, Peter Bailey.
Councilman Shemwell was pulled over on May 8 for allegedly speeding, and received an additional citation for having an outdated address on his license. Shemwell was arrested when he then refused to sign the citation issued by Officer Wilkerson. Shemwell made a statement the next day, accusing the officer of racial profiling, and that the handling of the traffic stop, as well as the increased presence of police for the low-level traffic stop, indicated poor usage of city resources.
This statement created a media frenzy surrounding the case. Released body-cam footage allowed the people of McKinney to view the interaction in its entirety, showcasing an admittedly fired up councilman arguing with the officer. At the May 15 City Council meeting, the issue was raised with the discussion turning hostile, leading to the call for the special meeting.
As another citizen, Mike Henke explained, “The reason we’re here tonight has nothing to do with whether Mr. Shemwell was speeding or not, it has to do with his behavior after he was pulled over by the police officer and whether he violated the city charter.”
The stipulation Henke referenced is Section 30(a) of the McKinney City charter which states “Except for the purpose of inquiry and further subject to Section 34, the City Council and its members shall deal with that part of the administrative service for which the City Manager is responsible solely through such Manager, and neither the City Council nor any member thereof shall give orders to any of the subordinates of the City Manager in said department, either publicly or privately by any form of communication. Willful violation of the foregoing provisions of this Charter by any member of the City Council shall constitute official misconduct…”
Councilman Shemwell is accused of violating this section of the charter, due to the comments he made to Officer Wilkerson during the arrest, as Wilkerson is a subordinate of the city manager. In the body-camera footage released, Shemwell is seen saying: “Clearly, when you read my name you knew who I am”, “You’re out of line” (2 times), “You better call Chief Conley” (2 times), “Mr. Wilkerson, you’re making a really bad decision” (2 times), “You are in really big trouble” (8 times) and several other brash statements.
“The city of McKinney has a race problem, it may come as a shock to some of you who don’t live in this skin…Councilman Shemwell, if you watch the video, was nervous. You cannot even imagine what it’s like to live one moment in this skin and you see those lights in your rearview mirror. I’m a law-abiding citizen, I’m an attorney and I get nervous,” said Kim Cole, offering a defense for Shemwell’s actions.
The decision went to the council members for discussion, and Shemwell himself made the motion to approve the resolution of his censure, requesting an amendment to a section of the language. This motion was seconded by McKinney mayor, George Fuller, and passed with a vote of 6 for, 0 against and 1 abstaining.
In the words of District 3 representative and Councilman Scott Elliott, “We can hold someone accountable without publicly humiliating them, and I do believe that is the way we should proceed. If you look to the Bible, the purpose of holding someone accountable is not condemnation. The purpose is reconciliation.”
The city of McKinney must now begin the journey to reconciliation with Councilman Shemwell, as he continues his service on the council.