Ypsilanti mayor announces resignation via Facebook
Ypsilanti Mayor Beth Bashert said Tuesday morning she was resigning following accusations that she had made a racist statement during a meeting with council members.
Bashert made her resignation public on Facebook and in a letter to the six-member council — three of whom are Black.
"I am deeply sorry to have my service end on this note and in this way," Bashert writes. "Sadly, as a result of my actions, there is healing to do to ensure that all residents, including Black, Indigenous, and people of color, enjoy full equity in Ypsilanti ... I had hoped to participate in that healing process, going forward."
The actions Bashert references took place at a recent city council meeting, according to a report from WDIV (Ch. 4):
During a vote on the reappointment of Ka’Ron Gaines to a commission that advises the council on eliminating prejudice and discrimination, Mayor Bashert said, “Since I will be crucified if I vote against any Black person on any commission, I’m going to vote ‘yes.’”
Councilwoman Nicole Brown, who called on the mayor to resign, said Bashert's comments and the controversy it caused "were an unfortunate situation that we're in" but she needed to step down.
"I'm glad that she made the decision to resign and listen to the voices of our community as well as the voices of council who all asked for her to do so," Brown said. "This was not solely about these last comments. There has been a history of the 18 months that she's been mayor and even some comments made before she was mayor as a city council member that were just unacceptable."
Brown said the mayor's last comment was "so blatant" and asked her to apologize because it was "so hurtful to the Black community" but nothing was acknowledged. Bashert's comments were made during last Tuesday's council meeting.
The mayor, Brown said, also treated Black council members and staff poorly and held up appointments of African-Americans who sought to be reappointed to boards and commissions.
Bashert could not be reached for comment. Mayor Pro-Tem Lois Allen-Richardson becomes the next mayor.
Annie Somerville, who also serves on Ypsilanti's council, said she's spoken out against what she considered the mayor's racist comments in the past. Somerville, who was appointed to council last June, is of Middle Eastern ancestry.
Somerville said the council was unanimous that she needed to resign and made it known to Bashert. Before last Tuesday's Zoom council meeting, members had considered possibly censuring the mayor, she said.
"Ironically enough, the last two months if you go back and look at our council meetings, you can see clear tension there between council and the mayor and around race," Somerville.
She was surprised at how quickly the mayor resigned because she thought it would take a protracted battle but she and Brown were clear with Bashert that city business could not move forward. "And we were being pretty firm about that," Somerville said. "I think that she knew that there wasn't a path forward with her in her context as mayor."
Somerville said the mayor even had inappropriate battles with the city manager, who is a Black woman.
"Her actions were racist. It wasn't just her words," Somerville said of Bashert. "She was directly acting on those beliefs."
Protesters took issue with the mayor's remarks, and a Black Lives Matter protest lined the streets of downtown Saturday.
Allen-Richardson told The News that she will complete Bashert's term, which was supposed to run through November 2022, and that the city council seat she will vacate will be up for election in November for a four-year term. Allen-Richardson's term was set to expire in November.
Allen-Richardson has been on the Ypsilanti City Council since 2000, and ran twice for mayor in losing efforts, in 2002 and 2006.
"I'm looking forward to doing the healing that is needed," Allen-Richardson said.
"I'm sorry it came about the way it did," she said, noting she was not aware of any mayoral resignations in Ypsilanti history prior to Tuesday.