MANSFIELD -- The chair of the Richland County Republican Party on Wednesday evening called "utterly disgraceful" the comments by Mansfield Law Director John Spon to infer local GOP members are racist.
"For such a time as this when we are consumed with fear, social hardship and racial unrest, it is utterly disgraceful for a local elected official to go on record in a public meeting and attack members of the opposing party by inferring Republicans are racists," local GOP chair Marilyn John said in an email to Richland Source.
During a meeting Tuesday of the Mansfield Charter Review Commission, Spon, a Democrat, cautioned members that lowering the required number of petition signatures to run for the non-partisan elected body may invite additional Republican involvement.
The law director, citing a hypothetical case involving Mansfield police and local minorities, said "a lot of (local Republicans) are not invested in being fair to all members of our community, particularly African-American and Brown Americans. They would never present that issue before the citizens (as members of the charter review commission)."
John, a Richland County commissioner and the party's nominee for the Ohio House 2nd District seat in November, sharply criticized Spon's comments.
"Declaring that we Republicans 'are not invested in being fair to all members of our community, particularly the African Americans or Brown Americans' is an obvious attempt to spread dissension, hate and falsehoods by City of Mansfield Law Director John Spon," John said. "This is when we desperately need to come together as a community, to encourage conversation to address societal issues.
"The ignorant comments by John Spon only divide us and shutdown conversation. The Richland County Republican Party will not allow such ignorance to divide, but instead use this as an opportunity to encourage open dialogue among residents of all political parties, races and jurisdictions," John said.
"It is also an opportunity to encourage public involvement on councils and commissions, such as the Mansfield Charter Review Commission. Feel free to reach out to the Republican Party to find out how to get involved and have your voice heard."
John said the majority of county, municipal and township elected officials, Democrat and Republican, "work diligently every day to improve the lives of all residents of Richland County."
"Sadly, it is rare to see Director Spon at work or in his office, let alone at public events talking with or listening to constituents about improving our community, even prior to the current epidemic," she said.
"We would encourage Director Spon to get more involved, listen more intently and speak more responsibly for the remaining 3 years, 5 months and 23 days he has in office," John said.