As everyone who followed the recent election knows, the Carbondale Spring made the case that the current Carbondale Police budget is double what it needs to be, and that the police pension costs are too large for the city to manage in the near and long term. Mayor Mike Henry was opposed to this idea, a staunch defender of the current size and cost of the police.
On the evening before the April 2nd election, a police press release published in the local papers shocked the town. Officers on foot patrol had responded to a woman screaming. Upon following the sound, they ended up at the Mayor’s house. No arrests were made, and the incident was turned over to SIU police. The police statement contained one ambiguous phrase that stuck out to some: “there were no injuries requiring medical attention.” Did that mean there were no injuries at all? Or just that they weren’t serious enough for medical attention?
Later that evening, Mayor Mike Henry released a statement assuring the people of Carbondale that it was just a heated argument under stressful circumstances, and that “there was never any violence, or threat of violence.”
The next day, he won the election by about 200 votes.
The following week, Mayor Henry continued his staunch public support of the Carbondale Police Department’s current budget at the public hearing on the proposed FY2020 budget, in the face of tough questions from the audience. He insisted that, while he may have to apologize after being scolded by citizens for his obvious disdain for speakers at the public hearing, he would “never apologize for supporting the Carbondale Police Department.”
On April 10, a story in the Southern Illinoisan revealed that the SIU Police report directly contradicted the Mayor’s public statement on the eve of the election. In fact, there had been a physical struggle. The Mayor’s spouse, Terri Henry, reported being “struck” by the Mayor — in non-archaic language: he hit her. The Mayor had a bite wound and scratch marks. Terri had blood on her clothing.
Those are the only physical facts that have been made public about the incident, and we don’t want to pretend that we know what happened exactly — who started it, etc. There is apparently much more information, since the document received through the Freedom of Information Act was heavily redacted.
But what has come out already is enough to confirm one, very important fact:
Mayor Mike Henry publicly lied to us all the night before the election. He said it was just a verbal dispute, but it was not.
We should add that its pretty obvious why he lied. Because if the truth came out — however complicated or strange it was — then that would likely have influenced the vote on April 2nd.
That is one important fact, and one obvious inference. There is another important inference we could make:
Mike Henry very likely knew that the Carbondale Police Department, and the SIU Police Department, wouldn’t publicly contradict his lie. He knew the police were the only other people who knew it was a lie, and he knew his secret was safe with them. After all, he’s their biggest supporter.
Incidentally, if a human bite wound draws blood, it does require some kind of medical attention. Human saliva has a lot of bacteria that can cause infection. Was it the Mayor’s blood on Terri’s clothes? Was it Terri’s? Either way, first aid — a form of medical attention — is definitely required. So we can add that the Carbondale Police Department’s statement contained, at best, an ambiguity designed to steer us from the truth of the situation, and at worse, an outright lie.
Recall again that the stakes of this past Mayoral election were quite high for the police. The Mayor’s challenger, Nathan Colombo, had publicly advocated for the Carbondale Spring plan to cut the police budget by as much as half. The police, in other words, stood to gain quite a bit by keeping silent about what happened at the Mayor’s house.
To sum up:
- Mike Henry lied to the public on the eve of the Carbondale election.
- He did this because if the truth came out, it very likely would have lost him the election.
- He did this assuming that the police would allow his lie to have its effect.
- The police had a strong incentive to let him lie to us, since their budget was at stake.
Without knowing any further details of what happened that night, we know all that. And all that is enough to justify his immediate resignation. It calls into question the legitimacy of his status as Mayor, as well as his ethical fitness as figurehead of the city.
Now, you might be thinking: all politicians lie all the time. Who cares?
In which case, we invite to you let everything remain exactly as it is, forever, without any hope of things ever getting better. Enjoy.
For those of you who still have the capacity for ethical judgement, and who care about the present and future of this city, we invite you to join us in calling for Mike Henry’s immediate resignation.