Former chair and vice chair resign from Iowa City’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Royceann Porter and T’Shailyn Harrington resigned from the city’s Ad Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Monday, days after commissioners voted to remove them from leadership.


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.

Caleb McCullough, Managing Editor

The former chair and vice chair of Iowa City’s Ad Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission resigned Monday, becoming the second and third members of the city board to resign after allegations of misconduct and an internal struggle resulted in leadership changes last week.

In a letter of resignation sent to the Iowa City City Council Monday, former chair Royceann Porter said she had made it a priority to mediate conversations and resolve conflicts, but she said she felt that she didn’t receive support from the council when the commission planned to vote to remove her as chair.

“I appreciate the confidence the Council showed when appointing me to this commission,” she wrote in her email. “However, as a person who has shown support, confidence and appreciation of the Council there is little evidence to show that you were truly supportive of my participation in furthering your efforts to create an opportunity for others to feel welcome and confident presenting their concerns.”

The commission was created by the City Council in September to hear accounts of racism in Iowa City and work to address that history through multiple avenues.

Porter resigned as chair on March 4 ahead of a planned no-confidence vote to remove her as the chair of the commission.

Multiple commissioners accused Porter of misconduct outside the board, intimidating and harassing at least one member of the public that had come before the commission.

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As The Daily Iowan previously reported, Jaylin Cavil, a Des Moines Black Liberation Movement organizer, said Porter called him after he made a comment at a previous meeting criticizing its organization. Cavil said the call was hostile, and it made him concerned that he and other members of the public can’t give comments without fear of backlash.

T’Shailyn Harrington, who was the vice chair of the commission until new leadership was elected last week, said in a letter to the council that her resignation was inspired by a lack of governing rules and decorum observed at the commission meetings.

Harrington said she believes in the power of the board to create the change it was tasked with, but that the disorganization has led to unconstructive meetings. Multiple times at recent meetings, commissioners discussed items not on the agenda and spoke over one another when meetings became tense.

“The melee that ensues—discussing items not on the agenda, voting on items on which the Commission has already voted—adds to the hostility between Commissioners,” Harrington wrote. “This lack of respect between Commissioners escalates a group dynamic already plagued with strife and distrust.”

Harrington wrote in her letter that after Porter resigned her position, she thought it was expected protocol that she would become the chair. Instead, the commission voted on a new chair and vice chair.

Porter and Harrington’s resignations come just days after Tony Currin, another commissioner, resigned his position for similar reasons. Jesse Case, a facilitator hired to work with the commission, also resigned his position after being approved by the commission on March 1.

Raneem Hamad, one of the commissioners who advocated to remove Porter from her position, said the vote to remove the existing leadership was about making the commission a safe space for the public to come without fear of retribution. She said the resigning commissioners’ focus on dysfunction didn’t mention the allegations of misconduct.

“Why aren’t they concerned about the allegations?” she said. “They seem so concerned about the bylaws, but the actual allegations that led to the situation that we’re in right now are completely sidelined. The victims are not centered at all in conversation.”

Hamad said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will move forward with the work it’s doing, and that the remaining members of the commission are committed to continuing its work.

“The TRC is fine. This is not about dysfunction,” she said. “Everyone was pleased with the progress of the TRC made last Thursday, even under the new leadership. And the new leadership is ready to charge ahead and continue to fulfill the mandate of the TRC.”