Madison alders respond to mayor’s statement condemning profanity at latest Common Council meeting

wisconsin state capitol

MADISON, Wis. — Common Council members have responded to Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Common Council President Sheri Carter’s statement on the profanity used during a meeting earlier this week.

In the late hours of a council meeting that discussed whether or not to have a civilian oversight board for the city’s police department, a man’s voice could be heard uttering a sexist slur as Shadayra Kilfoy-Flores was introduced for public comment.

Rhodes-Conway and Carter condemned the slur in a statement released Wednesday. In a letter signed by 13 of the city’s 20 alders Thursday, council members shared a similar sentiment and apologized to Kilfoy-Flores, the community and others who were affected by the profanity.

“We agree with the Mayor and President’s strong words condemning the use of gender-based profanity directed at a member of our community,” the letter said. “We agree there is no place for such an utterance in our meetings and that city residents should never be treated with disdain and disrespect.”

However, the undersigned alders disagreed with the mayor’s claim that “the culture and civility of Common Council meetings have drastically deteriorated,” noting how the assertion “deflects attention and accountability from the actual harm that was caused.

“It is important that we agree on who is to blame for the outburst,” the letter said. “There is little question as to the source and we ask that the person who uttered this word comes forward of their own accord. If that individual fails to step forward, we request a thorough investigation, including a forensic analysis of the recording. In the context of restorative justice, acknowledging the truth is the prerequisite for reconciliation, both among ourselves and with the broader community.”

The alders admitted to having tense moments in other meetings throughout the year, such as during discussions on the wheel tax and F-35 jets in Madison.

“That is nothing out of the ordinary for political discourse in a public forum,” the letter said. “At times, discussions get heated, feelings get hurt and egos get bruised. Despite all this, we generally find a way to work together and continue the task of representing the people of Madison and moving our City forward.”

Rather than state the “culture and civility” at the meetings has deteriorated, the letter said what has changed has been “an increased outpouring of public comment and debate about the value of Black lives and the accountability of public agencies and elected officials.

“Using this incident to direct blame towards Council culture rather than directing the focus on the inexcusable behavior of one individual, mischaracterizes the work of the Madison Common Council and risks eroding the public’s faith and confidence in our work.”

The alders have called upon Rhodes-Conway and Carter to take further steps to ensure that what happened at the last meeting does not repeat itself.