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Mayor rebukes Swift after attempt to shame council

By
JIM LINCOLN

Tecumseh Mayor Jack Baker apologized Monday after reacting to criticism from local resident Bill Swift who has publicly railed against State Representative Bronna Kahle and Congressman Tim Walberg, both Republicans, for votes taken following the January 6 raid by protestors on the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

In public comment, Swift scolded councilmembers Vicki Riddle, Gary Naugle and Austin See for posing in a photo with Bronna Kahle, and requested that council prepare a proclamation against votes taken by her and Walberg following the protests that questioned the integrity of the 2020 general election.

Swift, who serves as First Vice Chair of the Lenawee County Democratic Party, ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat to unseat Lenawee County Commissioner Dave Stimpson in the November election.

He was a fierce critic of the Tecumseh School Board following a recall election, and was removed by police from a board meeting in 2018 for disruptive behavior that continued for months. His combative style of addressing elected officials has led to tense public meetings.

On Monday, Swift raised the ire of Baker who reacted when Swift repeatedly referred to Kahle and Walberg as “liars.”

“Two of our representatives at the state and national level, who directly and openly violated their oaths of office, lied to their constituents and attempted to throw out their votes for president.”
“What I would like you guys (council) to do is, I understand there is non-binding resolutions or proclamations, do something to protect and defend the just and righteous principle of this country. This attack on our democracy, and on me personally, and all the other citizens in Tecumseh, the county and state, and a couple of other states, cannot be allowed to go unanswered. It’s caustic and tends to eat at those foundational principles and undermines the Republic. I know for a fact that these liars and oath breakers are being accepted by members of this council.”

“Mr. Swift, I am going to stop you right there,” said Baker.” You have every right to say what you’re going to say. What you feel, I respect that right, but you will not, when I chair a meeting, call any individual a liar. It’s not going to happen. I am not going to accept it,” he said.

Swift said, “I have a constitutional right. You do not have the constitutional authority to tell me what words I can and cannot use. These people lied openly and blatanly tried to disinfranchise me. They tried to throw out my vote. The very foundational principle of self government.”

Baker said, “Mr. Swift, I would say one thing to you, I wish just once, one time, you would come into this council meeting and say something positive, but no, you never have anything good to say. I am sick of it.”

“What can I possibly say about someone trying to disinfranchise me? What can I possibly say about people who go and get pictures taken with the person  who tried to disinfranchise me?” Swift said.

City Manager Dan Swallow and City Attorney Fred Lucas interceded and advised there should not be a debate during public comment.

Lucas asked if there was a time limit for public comment.

Baker said, “I don’t have one. I have never allowed one. I’m not that type of person. I let someone speak as long as they want, but when they start attacking  individuals, I stop them.”

“But you’re not willing to defend my right to vote. That’s what it boils down to,” Swift said.

“To my audience, both here and remotely, as mayor of this city, I apologize for my outbreak. It should never have happened. It will not happen again.  I will just say to you that there’s only so much that, as an elected official, and keep this in mind, we are not partisan elected officials. We are not Republicans, we are not Democrats. We are not independents. For us to be attacked and asked to make comments regarding other elected officials is not only unfair, it is not proper. If there’s any government at any level  that does a better job than I do and my fellow city councilmembers, show it to me.

“I’ve been in this business for 25 years. I have never been attacked  like you just did sir. Never. I don’t expect that kind of comment from people that live in my city. They don’t do that.

“I read your letter. You bet I did, and it made me sick. You accuse sitting members of being in photo opportunities with, and let’s call it who it is, Tim Walberg and Bronna Kahle. I would like to know what city member was in a photo opp with those two,” Baker said.

“Naugle, Riddle, and Austin See were with Bronna Kahle, the other ones were township officials that I was referencing,” Swift said.

In a letter from Swift in last week’s Herald, he referred to Kahle as “Bronna Benedict Kahle” and Walberg as “Tim Traitor Walberg.” He said township and city officials “cast shame on their own heads and invite derision by the public of their personages.”

Lucas again advised against making further comments. “We should not be responding during public comment period. He (Swift) had his comment. We are not obligated nor do I encourage council to respond to those public comments at this time.”

“Your honor, I respect that and I know that. This is not something I would normally do,” said Baker. “I will move on. Once again, I apologize to my audience, fellow councilmembers, and especially to those remotely, and to Mr. Swift, I apologize to you.”

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