Truth and Reconciliation Commission to consider removal of Chair Royceann Porter

After commissioners expressed concern about the current leadership in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a vote will be taken Thursday on removing Porter from the chair position.


Tate Hildyard

Johnson County Supervisor Royceann Porter speaks at a protest outside The College Dentistry on Friday, January 29th, 2020. University students from the dental college marched to the College of Dentistry to protest unaddressed issues regarding the treatment of minority students.

Claire Benson, News Reporter

Iowa City’s newly formed Ad Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission will consider a change in leadership this week after multiple members expressed unnamed concerns around current chair Royceann Porter.

During a biweekly meeting on Monday, the commission voted 8-1 to add a no-confidence vote as an agenda item during their upcoming meeting on Thursday, with the singular dissenting vote from Commissioner Tony Currin.

Porter also serves as a Johnson County supervisor and is the president and founder of the Black Voices Project in Johnson County.

The commission was formed in November to explore racial injustice in Iowa City through calling witnesses and public hearings.

Commissioners Mohamed Traore and Raneem Hamad said they had received accusations of misconduct against Porter, but wouldn’t provide further details during the meeting.

“Public perceptions matter,” Hamad said. “I will say right now for the record that the public does not have trust in the [Ad Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission] as of this morning. So, it’s important that we show that we are here for the public.”

Porter said during the meeting she received no communication from commission members about addressing these allegations.

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“If you had a problem, you could have just talked about it, called me, instead of talking amongst yourselves, accusing me, making accusations, and saying stuff,” Porter said. “I’m not going to sit here and ignore you like I did something to you, because I know I have not done nothing to you. Not one person called me and asked me had I done anything that I’m being accused of.”

Porter and Hamad did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Traore attempted to bring up a no-confidence vote during Tuesday’s meeting, but since it wasn’t on the agenda, it did not move forward. Open meetings law in Iowa requires discussion items in public meetings to be put on an agenda.

When asked why he proposed this motion, Traore said there was a protected source who came to him with allegations against Porter, which he is not allowed to release at this moment.

Vice Chair Commissioner T’Shailyn Harrington said she and Iowa City Equity Director Stefanie Bowers receive emails from commissioners about agenda items they would like to see during future meetings.

Harrington said since they did not receive one from Traore about this motion, they would not go forward on this item on Monday.

“I know there were statements of stopping agenda items and whatnot, and it was never a vile intent,” Harrington said. “It was simply that these conversations, like with Jesse, of understanding the trajectory of our commission and the things that we wish to do, that was on the forefront. All the emails are archived to always go back to and bring back up, [to see when] these conversations would be good to have.”

During the meeting, the commission approved the contract for a group facilitator, Jesse Case. The role will involve him mediating discussions and overseeing the development of the commission.

Case has worked with collective bargaining units and labor unions, working to resolve issues and create compromises between employers and workers — these mediating skills being one of the primary reasons why the commission chose to hire him.

Case will be able to assist the commission by offering his perspective and opinions on matters raised by the commission but will ultimately not be part of the decision-making process.

During a City Council meeting on Tuesday, Councilor Janice Weiner said she found it important that the council and the commission honor the democratic voting process that occurred in the commission to select and contract Case.

Councilor Pauline Taylor added that she found it necessary that the commission moves forward rather than revisiting previous choices they made.

“No board, even us as a council can accomplish anything if you continually revisit items, over and over and over again,” Taylor said. “One of those such items is the election of your chair, which you did in your first few meetings, which was elected by a fair vote, and I just do not see any reason for you to change that.”