Vice Mayor Fernando “Marty” Martinez and Councilman Neil Steinberg will be meeting publicly with the Loudoun chapter of the NAACP to discuss last month’s proclamation controversy after a council vote July 23.
Buta Biberaj, the NAACP’s legal redress chair, emailed Town Manager Kaj Dentler on July 2 requesting a meeting. The NAACP said that Biberaj, local NAACP President and Pastor Michelle Thomas, Vice President Amanda Tandy and Education Chair Robin Burke wanted to discuss the behavior of Councilmen Tom Dunn and Josh Thiel, as well as the response of the rest of council.
The NAACP called for Councilman Tom Dunn’s resignation after he wrote sentiments instead of signatures on three different town proclamations honoring local groups. One of them was presented to Thomas and the NAACP to celebrate Juneteenth and commemorate the 1889 lynching of Leesburg resident Orion Anderson. Anderson received a memorial in Leesburg on June 20.
Dunn later said that while he would have signed his signature on separate proclamations, he thought combining them into one was inappropriate because one was a celebration and the other a solemn observance. He said he did not intend to offend any group, saying that the messages were directed to council for presenting politically controversial proclamations.
Councilman Ron Campbell discovered Dunn’s message before council met and instructed staff to print a clean copy of the proclamation.
“Thanks to the quick action, sensitivity and leadership of Councilman Ron Campbell, the family of Orion Anderson, NAACP, Loudoun Freedom Center and the African American community of Loudoun at large did not have to endure another painful, hate-filled, demeaning experience at the hands of those in power in Leesburg,” Thomas told the Times-Mirror at the time.
Thiel signed his signature to the Juneteenth proclamation and voted in favor of it. He wrote a message on the LGBTQ Pride Month proclamation at the absent Dunn’s request and has since apologized.
During the July 23 work session, council debated over the exact format of the meeting. Most of council preferred to have a subcommittee meet with the NAACP, but Campbell wanted all of council to participate.
“I don’t believe it’s in the spirit of what the NAACP has called for,” Campbell said. “I believe it divides council and it creates a situation of further delay. There’s no work that can be accomplished and there’s certainly no action that can be taken.”
Dunn nominated Martinez and Councilwoman Suzanne Fox for the subcommittee. Martinez at first declined and nominated Steinberg. By Tuesday, Fox, who is away on a trip, asked to have her name withdrawn, so Martinez took her place.
The meeting will be publicly advertised once a date and time have been determined.