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Middletown council member apologizes, but won't resign, over FB post; cartoon called 'offensive'

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 6/8/20

Middletown Borough Councilor Richard Kluskiewicz apologized on his personal Facebook page today for a recent post he made that has led to a call for his resignation.

Kluskiewicz told the Press …

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Middletown council member apologizes, but won't resign, over FB post; cartoon called 'offensive'

Posted

Middletown Borough Councilor Richard Kluskiewicz apologized on his personal Facebook page today for a recent post he made that has led to a call for his resignation.

Kluskiewicz told the Press & Journal on Monday that he is not resigning.

The post was a screenshot of a cartoon titled "Defund Democrats" from the website conservativefiringline.com. It made reference to the Black Lives Matter movement and “Decades of Democratic Policies” in an image reminiscent of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, while he was being held down by a police officer who was kneeling on his neck.

The call for Kluskiewicz’s resignation came from Kay Wealand, a Middletown resident who said she is acting in her official capacity as chairwoman of the Middletown/Royalton Boroughs Democratic Club of Dauphin County.

Wealand told the Press & Journal that the club is planning to organize a protest calling for Kluskiewicz to step down. The protest would most likely be in front of the Municipal Building at 60 W. Emaus St., although Wealand could not say when.

Wealand sent the Press & Journal screen shots that had been sent to her of posts from Kluskiewicz’s Facebook page that have since been removed.

Kluskiewicz appears to address the "Defund Democrats” cartoon in his apology, which was posted to Facebook at about 3:30 p.m. Monday.

But other screen shots provided by Wealand, including ones concerning Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, do not appear to be addressed in Kluskiewicz’s statement.

Kluskiewicz told the Press & Journal by phone Monday he is not resigning, and referred to the post on his Facebook page by way of further response.

The post in its entirety reads as follows:

“I would like to start this post by saying that the situation that unfolded, nationally, with George Floyd is extremely disheartening. The video of this man fighting for his life is wrong on so many levels. What happened to this man should never, ever happen in America. Period. Officer Chauvin was wrong for what he did and deserves whatever the consequences are for his actions.I believe that our country had been unified, in agreement, to what happened to Mr. Floyd. I, being on Borough Council, have attempted to hold the police in our community accountable for their actions. That being said, does not mean that I am against the Police, which could be farther from the truth.

“As an elected official, I support ALL areas of our community, that I represent and it has come to my attention that a personal post that I shared, about national politics, was seen as offensive to some residents. After reflecting on the post, I can understand, in light of this particular climate the image may have upset some people. So therefore, I would like to apologize for the image. The George Floyd situation is extremely rare in the grand scheme of how many police officers serve in the United States of America.

“For Forty (40) years, the Democratic Party has represented the African American community at the National level and has done very little to help them. I am disturbed by this and that was the message I was trying to make. Despite my intentions to pass along that message, it obviously got lost in the imagery of the picture. So again, for that reason I would like to apologize to the public. I do stand behind my beliefs in terms of what is best for the Country and Middletown as a whole, in terms of representation. However, in the future, I will be more cognizant of the type of imagery I use to express my beliefs.” 

Wealand said she questions Kluskiewicz's "sincerity" after reading his apology and whether he is able to represent all Middletown residents, regardless of their political affiliation and other differences.

"He's making it political, and that's what I see in his so-called apology," Wealand said. "He is blaming all this on Democrats and on Democratic policies, claiming they have not helped the minority population. He is making it political and we aren't."

"What kind of representation as an elected borough council member is he going to give the residents of this community, whether they are Democrats, not registered, if they are gay, heterosexual, transgender, all that kind of stuff. That's what I want to know, and I don't see him changing. He has not provided to me in that so-called apology that he has sincerely apologized to the residents and constituents of this community."

Wealand had told the Press & Journal earlier Monday that while Kluskiewicz has his First Amendment rights, “as a sitting council member we find those posts offensive to the residents of our community if he is supporting one particular group. He should not be biased. He should be looking out for the whole community as an elected official.”

Kluskiewicz is a Republican but “this has nothing to do with what his political affiliation is,” Wealand said. “He was elected by the people of the borough to represent the borough and to look after the borough. He should be looking at the residents as a whole and should not be posting racist kind of information.”

Councilor Dawn Knull said she did not agree with the posts on Kluskiewicz's Facebook page.

She added that the posts do not represent her feelings as a council member, because Kluskiewicz posted them on his own personal page. But that doesn't get him off the hook, in her view.

"When you are a council member you are held to a higher standard," said Knull, who is a Democrat. However, she declined comment when asked directly if she thinks Kluskiewicz should resign. 

Kluskiewicz has been on council since Oct. 15, when council appointed him to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of former Vice President Michael Woodworth.

Kluskiewicz was already on the ballot running for a four-year seat on council, having won a spot in the Republican primary. Kluskiewicz was elected to a full four-year term on council in November 2019. Before that, he had recently retired from Three Mile Island after working at the nuclear plant for 40 years.