MICHIGAN CITY — Despite calls for his resignation following the release of a recording in which he made racially-charged remarks about a group of local pastors, Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry did not step down during a press conference outside City Hall on Wednesday.
Instead, he laid out a preliminary plan that will require all city employees, and board and commission appointments, to undergo mandatory implicit bias and cultural diversity training.
Additionally, a new position will be created in the mayor’s office for someone to “assist the mayor and act as a representative” to the community.
“I cannot say the words to fully express my regret for saying what I said during the past week,” Parry said. “My words now cannot change what I’ve said. However, my future actions can and will. I’m sorry. I realize that saying I’m sorry is not enough.”
It is unclear whether Parry was apologizing for inadvertently recording himself insulting the pastors, for publicly reprimanding Police Chief Dion Campbell, or both.
He declined to take questions following the press conference and did not elaborate further.
As for the implicit bias training, Parry said his will begin immediately.
Department heads and all other city employees will undergo the training soon after, he said, with “yearly refresher training” for the mayor, his staff and department heads.
Regular employees will undergo training every two years. And such training will become part of the onboarding process for all board and commission appointments.
When it comes to the new position being created within the mayor’s office, Parry said the Michigan City Spiritual Task Force, Michigan City Common Council and NAACP of La Porte County will have a say in who is hired.
“These are the steps that I will put in place to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again,” Parry said, noting he consulted with city Human Rights Director Ta-Tanesha Clark George in coming to this conclusion.
“This is my plan to become a better person, a better mayor and a better public servant,” he said. “I ask for your forgiveness, but also, I ask for the opportunity to show that I am truly the mayor for all the people in Michigan City.”
On Tuesday, Rev. James Lane publicly released a voicemail message Parry left for him on Friday.
In it, the mayor declined to meet with Lane and the Spiritual Task Force to address their concerns regarding Parry’s public admonishment of the police chief, which the pastors felt had racist undertones.
Toward the end of the recording, it was apparent that Parry thought he had hung up the phone, and he could be heard saying, “They want a f------ audience, you know. These Black guys, they all want a f------ audience.”
Lane, who was in attendance at the press conference Wednesday, was unsatisfied with the mayor’s response.
“I still want this mayor to resign,” he said. “This public apology – it seems false, fake, insensitive. And like always, he says what he wants to say and leaves. That is not the character of a true leader.”
Lane took issue with the fact that Parry said the Spiritual Task Force would have input into who would fill the new position, as Parry has not reached out to him or any other task force member about the matter, he said.
When asked what the mayor can do to make things right, Lane said, “Resign. … Your apology is a moot point.
“The way you treat your staff, the way you treat your City Council members, it is evident that you have the behavior of a bigot; and there’s no place for bigotry in the leadership of Michigan City.”
Rev. Dwayne Hurt, another member of the Spiritual Task Force, also expressed disappointment over the content of the press conference.
“I was hoping for more, actually a lot more,” he said. “But once again, he has shown who he is. He made an open apology. We don’t really know who that apology was to. …
“When he did what he did, he was very direct in speaking to and about Chief Campbell, but he was very indirect today.”
Hurt was referring to a press release the mayor sent out and posted on Facebook last week apologizing for Campbell having mailed a donation request letter to citizens and businesses as an insert in their water bills.
In Parry’s press release, since removed from the city’s Facebook page, the mayor accused the chief of begging citizens for money to pay for things already funded in the municipal budget.
And during last week’s Common Council meeting, Parry said Campbell should have respected the “pecking order” within city leadership before sending such a letter – a comment Lane likened to the mindset of white slave masters during a Spiritual Task Force meeting Monday.
“Training is wonderful, but it’s almost like those who had nothing to do with this are being held accountable for what [Parry] has done,” Hurt said Wednesday.
“He needs to really understand that he is the one who caused all of this. He never even talked about what the issue was that he was sorry for. So, we’re still waiting for an apology that’s yet to come. One that’s viable – this one was nowhere close to being that.
“So, he has a job to do; and we still have a job to do,” Hurt continued, “and that is to keep our foot on the pedal. We’re going to do everything within our power to get what we were requesting before, and that is his removal.”
When asked whether he accepts Parry’s apology, Rev. David Ashley, another member of the Spiritual Task Force who was present Wednesday, said, “We are always forgiving of a person who apologizes; but just because we forgive him does not mean he is fit for duty.”
Ashley said that by refusing to resign, Parry is “further inflict[ing] pain on the residents of Michigan City.”