Mason Councilwoman cleared of an ethics complaint over racial statements

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The front of the City of Mason's city hall.

Mason City Councilwoman Rita Vogel faced an ethics complaint from two Mason residents, due to comments made when attempting to recognize Malcom X Day in a city council meeting. The complaint was dismissed by the Board of Ethics for the city.

The City Hall of the City of Mason, where both the incident took place and the Board of Ethics meeting took place. Photo taken by Lauretta Sha.

According to a public recording posted by the City of Mason, in the Feb. 6 City Council meeting, when discussing if the city should observe Malcom X Day, Vogel expressed her feelings about the importance of acknowledging historically marginalized groups in order to gain community trust.

“Making decisions around the white experience does not gain community trust,” said Councilwoman Vogel during the meeting.  “Gatekeeping representation by refusing to create space for people of color in Mason is white supremacy.”

This statement was not well received by a couple of the community, Tom and Vicki Whipple.  A few days after the meeting, the couple filed a complaint against Councilwoman Vogel for her statement, writing in the report that “Rita Vogel, City Council Member at the February 6th meeting said the City of Mason is racist and white supremacist because we didn’t vote for Malcom X Day.” 

It should be noted that Councilwoman Vogel is a person of color, and the Whipples are white.

The Board received the complaint March 23 and began to process the complaint.  On April 4, Vogel was notified of the complaint, and commented about the complaint on her Facebook.

“It is disgraceful that [the Board of Ethics] even accepted this complaint as legit. Especially when elected officials swear an oath to protect freedom of speech. This is clearly retaliation in an effort to challenge my integrity as an elected official,” she wrote.

On April 12, the Board of Ethics reviewed the compliant, and found that it was unsustainable. Committee chair Marc Jordan, stated that “no action is warranted regarding the complaint.”

The board also noted that the Whipples did not respond to emails requesting additional information with regard to the compliant, and that Councilwoman Vogel did not violate any rule found within the Code of Ethics.  The allegations stated that several rules in the code were violated, however, upon closer examination, did not exist within the code.

After the decision, Vicki Whipple shouted at the board members, stating that Councilwoman Vogel had called the City of Mason racist, and afterward left the meeting with her husband. 

“The board made the proper decision tonight, and I thank them for their service to the city. If residents are upset about what a council member says, or decisions the council makes, the proper outlet for that is during public comment at our city council meetings or the ballot box,” Vogel commented on the decision on her Facebook page. 

“I will continue to fight for the underrepresented in the city of Mason.”

The complaint and related files can be found on the City of Mason’s website here.

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