KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Three Kansas City Council members boycotted a committee meeting Wednesday because Mayor Quinton Lucas has not removed another council member as leader of the committee for what they called racist and unethical behavior.
Council members Kevin O’Neill, Melissa Robinson and Eric Bunch boycotted the meeting over a dispute with Councilwoman Teresa Loar, who is white, after comments she made to Robinson, who is Black, in July. The boycott meant the committee did not have a quorum and could not meet.
A coalition of civil rights groups and the three council members have previously asked Lucas to remove Loar as chairwoman of the Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations Committee.
They said Lucas had made several verbal commitments to remove Loar but had not done so.
Robinson told The Associated Press that she wanted Lucas, who is Black, to demonstrate leadership and self-awareness by removing Loar from any leadership position on the council.
“He has done nothing, particularly during this moment in the nation where people everywhere are calling for racial justice," Robinson said. “It is disappointing and disheartening that he is not willing to stand up.”
Lucas told The Kansas City Star Wednesday that he had promised the council members he would evaluate Loar’s leadership. He also said he is evaluating the performance of all council committees, not just Loar's leadership.
“We have not made a final decision yet one way or the other,” Lucas said, “and frankly I continue to evaluate each day frankly all of my committees in the sense that we want to make sure that we’re delivering in the best interest of Kansas Citians.”
In July, Robinson opposed a resolution proposed by Loar regarding the city's animal control operations.
After Robinson spoke, Loar said "That was a very nice speech someone wrote you, Miss Robinson.”
Robinson replied that she had a Master of Business Administration degree and didn't need anyone to write for her. When she told Loar not to question her intellect, Loar responded with a mocking physical gesture that included a neck roll and shimmy that Robinson and others considered racist.
Loar said Wednesday that she had apologized three times to Robinson and taken implicit bias training after Lucas asked her to do so.
Loar said she would consider stepping down as chairwoman if Lucas asked her to but she will not voluntarily leave the position.
Loar said the council members' actions were more about a dispute over selecting bidders for work on the new single terminal at Kansas City International Airport than about racism.
Robinson said if the dispute was over the airport contracts, she would have attended the meeting because she is committed to ensuring fairness for women- and minority-owned businesses. She said Loar had not learned to understand the ramifications of her actions and was instead trying to deflect from that topic by bringing up the airport bidding process.