Salem City Council accepts Benjamin resignation after social media scandal

Councilman's resignation final after social media post

Salem councilor Daniel Benjamin resigned Wednesday and lost his job at a local car dealership following backlash for a controversial social media post he shared about Black Lives Matters activists.

The council voted to censure Benjamin and accept his resignation at a meeting Monday night.

Benjamin had shared a video on his Facebook page that depicted cars plowing into African-Americans with a description from blogger Ron Dwyer that read: "As this video shows people are starting to get tired of the BlackLivesMatter bullies blocking the roadways."

“I’m done,” Benjamin told the Statesman Journal on Wednesday afternoon. He said he appreciated the chance to work for Salem's Ward 6 as a city councilor.

Elected in 2014, Benjamin's term was set to expire at the end of 2018.

"I believe that Daniel has made the right decision," Mayor Anna Peterson said in an interview. She said the city council took the matter seriously and that it supports the civil rights of all people in the community.

The city charter states that if any councilor leaves office with "more than one year to the next primary election, the vacancy shall be filled at a special election at the next available date."

The city also provided an excerpt from his letter addressed to Peterson and the council, which read:

  • "Effective immediately, I hereby tender my resignation as Salem City Councilor of Ward 6. I wish the very best of success to all citizens of the city of Salem. Thank you for the opportunity to be your city councilor. I truly cherish the time that I spent and the people I have met serving the city."

Benjamin expressed disappointment, saying Facebook users had "already hung me" and that he hopes the community can heal.

Benny Williams, president of the NAACP's Salem-Keizer branch, called Benjamin's resignation "appropriate."

He said it sends the message that people who behave in a way that "does not promote tolerance" and "does not promote positive communication" should not hold an elected office.

Advocacy groups in Salem, including the NAACP and the Racial Justice Organizing Committee, signed a letter to the city demanding that Benjamin resign.

Part of the letter reads:

  • "His action posting a blatantly outrageous and racist video on his Facebook page demonstrates his lack of fitness to serve as a representative of the people of Salem. No one could conceive of images of black people being intentionally mowed down in the street by cars as anything other than racist. This is not a joke, especially given the history and current reality of violence experienced by black Americans and people of color."

Asked via a text about her thoughts on the move, organizer Teressa Raiford, who is helping to coordinate the Monday event, said, "It was smart."

"The state does not need more racism," she said. "We need less and it starts with political infrastructure."

Power Nissan of Salem, where Benjamin worked, announced in the comments section of a Facebook post that he was no longer with the company. An employee confirmed the post Wednesday.

Benjamin made an apology on the matter, the Statesman Journal reported on Tuesday. City officials had planned an executive session for Monday to consider disciplinary action against him, though it remains unclear if that session will still occur.

Prior to his resignation, Mayor Peterson had said she was considering removing him from council subcommittees, which is in the mayor's power to do.

Peterson had said a councilor could only be removed from office if that member had been absent for more than 30 days or convicted of a crime.

Send questions, comments or news tips to jbach@statesmanjournal.com or 503-399-6714. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMBach.

KGW


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