MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Dozens of Muskegon residents are calling for a county commissioner’s resignation over social media posts they say are racist.
Commissioner Zach Lahring sat and listened during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s commission meeting, where his colleagues and constituents repeatedly accused him of posting racist content and other offensive remarks to his personal Facebook page.
Lahring’s supporters defended the Republican commissioner, saying the posts aren’t racist and everyone has the right to express their opinion.
One residents calling for Lahring’s resignation pointed to the “bowling posts” as an example of the offensive content shared to his Facebook page, saying it takes aim at the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It was that one that got me, it really got me,” Muskegon resident Destinee Keener told News 8 after speaking during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting. “Because it’s like you know what you’re doing and you know you can do it, so you won’t stop.”
Keener was one of residents to call for Lahring’s immediate resignation as well as an apology to the minority groups targeted in his posts.
“I am the mother of three Black sons and a Black husband, and the fear is very real that every single time they step outside of our house that they may not return,” Keener said. “That’s compacted by having a commissioner that shares such racist ideology on his social media page.”
Lahring’s supporters also called in during the public comment portion of the meeting, defending the commissioner’s posts and character.
“He is not a racist … he’s very, very accepting over everybody,” Lahring supporter and Dalton Township Trustee Kerry Knight said during the meeting. “His humor is different … we live in America, people. We have the right to speak our mind.”
County Board Chair Bob Scolnik said he was a bit surprised by the number of people who turned out in Lahring’s defense, calling it a 60/40 split.
“It might have been 60 (percent) against Mr. Lahring and 40 (percent) supporting Mr. Lahring,” Scolnik said. “It should’ve been 90/10, but it wasn’t.”
News 8 spoke with Lahring on the phone after the meeting, asking if he has any plans to resign or apologize to those offended by his remarks.
“No, I don’t believe I posted any racist comments, so I think that they’re a bunch of snowflakes,” Lahring said. “… I think they are projecting their own racism onto my post and reading into it what they want.”
Though Scolnik agrees with those calling Lahring’s posts racist and offensive, he said without a resignation, there’s nothing he can do to remove or reprimand another elected official.
“I can’t do anything to him, I can’t remove him, there’s no mechanism for doing that,” Scolnik said. “Just because you say or do something that people find offensive, you can’t remove somebody for that, we’re elected.”
Scolnik said he’s consulted the county attorney on the matter, who agreed there’s not much that can be done.
“His posts are right on the border,” Scolnik said. “They’re not illegal.”
According to Scolnik, the governor holds the authority to remove a sitting elected official from office, but only can do so under certain circumstances like if the official commits a felony.