A Madison alder is facing calls to resign after someone could be heard uttering a misogynistic slur to refer to a constituent during a marathon Common Council meeting early Wednesday morning.
Paul Skidmore, who has represented Madison’s far west side for 15 years, did not respond to a request for comment from Madison365, but told the Capital Times that the voice in the recording is not his.
The slur came around 3:00 am Wednesday, about eight hours into a nine-hour meeting, during which the Council overwhelmingly approved a number of measures that will establish a full-time independent police monitor on the City staff and a civilian board to oversee the Madison Police Department. After those measures passed, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway opened public comment on the next agenda item, a measure to provide funds to downtown businesses affected by protests over the summer. She called first on Shadayra Kilfoy-Flores, a community activist who regularly appears to testify at Common Council meetings. On the recording of the meeting, a male voice can be heard uttering a slur as soon as Kilfoy-Flores is called on.
Skidmore, a consistent vote against police reform and oversight, had been the most recent alder to unmute himself in the online meeting, to be recorded as abstaining on the police oversight measure, less than a minute before the slur was heard. He was also unmuted and could be heard interrupting Alder Samba Baldeh, minutes after the slur was heard.
“I recognize his voice. I know Skidmore’s voice,” Kilfoy-Flores said in an interview Wednesday evening. “There’s no possibility whatsoever that it wasn’t him.”
In an email to Madison365, Alder Rebecca Kemble called Skidmore’s denial “absolutely ridiculous.”
“His voice is very distinctive. No other Council member sounds like him,” she wrote.
Both Kemble and Kilfoy-Flores said they didn’t hear the remark in real time, but both said the recording is clear.
“In viewing the multiple videos afterwards there is no doubt in my mind that the word was uttered by Alder Skidmore. Vulgar name calling of residents who have worked so long and hard in good faith to help our city improve its oversight over police is reprehensible,” she wrote.
Several prominent community activists and leaders said on social media that Skidmore should apologize and resign.
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Common Council President Sheri Carter issued a joint statement Wednesday afternoon, in which they did not name Skidmore, but called for greater civility on the Council.
“Over the past few months, the culture and civility of Common Council meetings have drastically deteriorated, culminating in what appears to be the use of gender based profanity addressed at a member of the public at the September 1st Council meeting,” the statement reads. “Alders using profanity or a derogatory statements during public meetings – whether virtually or in person — or even on social media, are indisputably uncalled for and should not be a part of our proceedings as we conduct the business of the City. The City’s residents deserve better from us. We encourage alders to come up with systems for us to hold each other accountable outside of elections.”
Development of such a system has been underway, as an alder workgroup was convened earlier this year “to develop our own code of conduct since currently the only thing that applies to Alders is the ethics code, that deals with fiduciary responsibilities and conflicts of interest,” Kemble wrote.
Kilfoy-Flores said even if such a system already existed, it wouldn’t be worth the time to go through a disciplinary process.
“I think he should resign,” she said. “I don’t think we should have to leave any taxpayer dollars any time, like having a case against him, having him voted off the board. I don’t think that should happen. I think he should just pack it up and pack it in and retire and go play golf.”
Kilfoy-Flores said she’s not angry, and also not surprised.
“This guy is mad that citizens have some accountability for abuse of power. And then what does he do? He turns around and abuses his power,” she said. “The whole point of elected officials is to be trusted representation of their constituents. Calling women foul names, that’s no way to earn trust. That’s half your constituents who no longer trust you … He’s calling me names because he sees me as a threat as a powerful woman. So I’m not mad. I kind of chuckled and patted myself on the back, like, ‘Good job. You’re obviously doing something right.’”
Skidmore is up for election in April 2021.