Royal Oak Commissioner Gibbs Says “No” to Resignation Request After Operation Gridlock Rally
(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 18, 2020)
Royal Oak, MI – With 18 Royal Oak residents dead and 226 having tested positive for COVID-19 as of Saturday, officials in the SE Oakland County suburb have differing opinions on the seriousness of the disease.
Royal Oak City Commissioner Kim Gibbs attended a rally in Lansing called “Operation Gridlock” in protest of business closures, travel restrictions, bans on public gatherings and other provisions of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order. The rally was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition. Though the main intent of the rally was to create a traffic jam around the capitol building, there were about 150 people who left their vehicles to gather in front of the capitol building.
Gibbs stood out in the crowd with a long red coat, and was caught on camera several times in close proximity to others and without a protective face mask or gloves.
Pictures of Commissioner Gibbs made their rounds on Facebook, along with criticisms that ranged from supporting her in spirit but not in action, to those expressing disappointment, concern, and anger.
As the outcry began, Gibbs told The Daily Tribune “”I’m not a doctor, but my personal belief is that the people who got it, or are going to get it, have already gotten it, so let’s get back to work.” She also claimed to have been following the six foot social distancing guideline, though pictures show otherwise, and she said “when you are out in the air, the air disperses it. I didn’t feel in danger.”
MAYOR ASKS COMMISSIONER TO RESIGN
Royal Oak Mayor Mike Fournier felt so strongly that he asked Commissioner Gibbs to resign. Oakland County Times obtained the email conversation between them through a Freedom of Information Act Request.
In the email dated April 16, Mayor Fournier wrote:
“Your actions and words regarding the COVID-19 pandemic yesterday have brought unnecessary distractions and hardships to our community. Your potentially unlawful and reckless actions have put more of our residents at risk of death. I am personally disappointed in you and distraught over the entire situation.
It isn’t my place to lecture you on your role as an elected member of our commission. Or your role as a fellow human being during this unprecedent health crisis. Instead, I will simply ask that you strongly consider resigning from the Royal Oak City Commission so we can put this incident behind us and direct city energy to keeping our fellow citizens safe.
Commissioner Gibbs replied with a statement she also previously shared with Oakland County Times and posted on social media:
“On April 15, 2020, I attended the gathering at the Capitol building to support the unheard voices of small business owners and those who work for them. Many of them are facing permanently losing their business or their jobs due to Governor Whitmer’s near total shutdown of the State. The rules of her lockdown have become arbitrary and capricious.
We must still be careful and make plans that protect the safety of everyone in Michigan, but I believe there is a way to slowly reopening parts of our economy safely and with surgical precision without resorting to punitive executive orders that takes a sledgehammer to the entire economy of the state of Michigan.
I fear that the Governor and our County government are satisfied with this overly simplistic approach of taking a blunt object to the entire state instead of developing the plans with surgical precision that will keep us safe while preserving hundreds of thousands of jobs and businesses. It is their duty to develop these plans immediately, so that we can begin phasing them in as soon as it is determined that safety can be maintained. Hopefully this can begin on May 1st.
Unfortunately, we have not seen or heard of any details or plans to keep us safe and save the jobs we will all need to survive. Instead we have recently seen plans from Oakland County, run by Chairman David Woodward, one of the Governor’s go-to people, promoting the gruesome idea to use local ice arenas to store dead bodies. This is unacceptable and needs to stop. We need to help our residents survive, not make plans for their dead bodies.
Politicians and bureaucrats must be reminded that there are real people out there that deserve to be heard. It is time to set politics aside and work together to safely restore our state’s jobs and economy. Our Governor and County officials, like David Woodward ,have the power and recourses to do that, but it is vital to begin that work now. I hope the voice of the people will prompt them to begin before it is too late.
Mayor Fournier, what do you think about having Lindell Ice Arena filled with dead bodies? And what plans have we, the City Commission, discussed to help the businesses throughout the city to rebuild and repair the damage done by these Orders? There is a safe way to do this.”
Mayor Fournier replied:
This is your response? Political rhetoric? I am embarrassed and ashamed for you. Views on the executive orders are irrelevant. From what I see you broke the law and willfully violated social distancing measures putting our families and neighbors at risk. Your actions will prolong quarantine and add to everyone’s economic hardships. Your comments to the press are beyond ignorant and show zero empathy for those on the front lines fighting this virus and those who have succumb to it. None of your spin-doctors will save you form your irresponsible actions and words.
I will not be responding to anymore of your nonsense. This is about life and death. You had the chance to do what was right and prudent and you failed.”
SO WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Oakland County Times asked Mayor Fournier “If Commissioner Gibbs does not resign, can you, and will you, take further action?”
His response was “There are options available that we are exploring. Actions have consequences and no viable option is off the table. To allow such egregious actions to go unchecked would be a dereliction of our duty.”
We also asked if he “inquired with the state or Ingham county about why people at the protest were not cited for violating the order? And if so what was the response?”
To which he said “The Ingham county prosecutor is aware of the unlawful acts perpetuated at the rally and will make the best determination on how to proceed. I am most interested in Commissioner Gibbs resigning so our city can begin healing from this black eye she bestowed upon us.”
Gibbs told Oakland County Times she’s not ready to resign, responding to our questions only with “No, I am not resigning” along with the same response she gave to Fournier’s email above.
Gibbs is also running for County Commissioner in the Nov. 3, 2020 election as a Republican candidate.
MAYOR UPDATES RESIDENTS
On Thursday the Mayor gave an update via Facebook to the community. He wrote:
“Let me be clear: The actions of one commissioner DO NOT represent the views of the majority of the commission or the views of our community as a whole. A vast majority of Royal Oakers have stepped up and are doing their part to abolish this deadly pandemic. The loving and empathetic spirit of our community has been on full display over the past number of weeks and the actions of a single person will not erode our commitment to one another or temper our spirit to fight for the lives of people everywhere.
As mayor, let me reaffirm the position of the majority of Royal Oak Commissioners:
•The majority agrees that public health & safety is our number one priority.
•The majority knows the coronavirus pandemic is not over and EVERYONE must follow federal guidelines and state executive orders to slow the spread.
•The majority listens to the experts, scientists, doctors, and public safety officials to inform every decision we make at the local level.
•The majority understands that strict and broad social distancing compliance will lead to a shorter stay-at-home period and quicker re-opening of our economy.
•The majority fully support our brothers & sisters deemed essential workers during this crisis, including our own Police Chief while he recovers from COVID-19. We would not be able to survive without our health care workers, first responders, grocery store workers, mail carriers, delivery drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, and anyone else who must endure the risk of exposure on our behalf.
•The majority honors our oath of office to adhere to the laws of the state of Michigan and put our community members first.
•The majority will lead by our actions, not by our words.
Royal Oak officials are briefed every day with the newest information regarding the pandemic. We receive detailed reports from the governor’s office, our county executive, congressional leaders, state representatives, the CDC, Beaumont hospital, and other trusted sources of information. We see the seriousness of the situation and how following the executive orders will preserve life and get us closer to recovery.
Commissioners have seen the death certificate information of people who lost their struggle with COVID-19. Information that goes beyond just a statistic. A list of people who would otherwise be raising their children, hugging their grand kids, celebrating a milestone, or being the neighbor that we could always count on. As of today, Royal Oak has lost 14 of our own to this virus. This is personal and this is enough motivation to stay united and put our own needs aside for the greater good.
Reckless and irresponsible behavior during the biggest public health crisis in a century shall not be overlooked or go unchecked. It is during times like these that we demand the best from ourselves and each other.
Stay home. Stay Safe. Stay Strong.”
County-wide there have been 5,926 confirmed cases, and 445 deaths. Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
The next City Commission meeting is April 27, and is being held online due to the coronavirus pandemic. For more info on the City of Royal Oak, including meeting information, agendas, and COVID-19 resources, visit https://www.romi.gov.