LIMA — Once again, a mayoral debate sponsored by the Lima NAACP will not feature one of the candidates, with concerns over impartiality cited as the cause.
On Monday, the deadline date for responding to the invitation to the debate between Mayor David Berger and challenger Keith Cheney, set for 6 p.m. Sept. 27 at Grace Church Worldwide Ministries, the Berger for Mayor Committee published a memo outlining its rationale for declining to participate in the debate. While a similar invitation to an NAACP-sponsored debate in April was declined due to the mayor’s disapproval of the unit’s choice to elect Ronald Fails as president, Monday’s memo cited concerns that the debate would not be fair and impartial, citing a Facebook post by Fails’ wife, Carol Fails, as evidence.
“It was brought to our attention that a member of the NAACP leadership team made public comments that we believe amount to a public endorsement of Dave’s opponent,” the memo reads. “Specifically, Dr. Carol A. Fails, NAACP Unit #3170 Education Chair, posted on social media a video of Dave’s opponent speaking at the Aug. 19 Freedom Fund Banquet with the comment, ‘Mr. Keith Cheney, hopefully the next mayor.’”
Cheney was the keynote speaker at the banquet.
The memo also points to an NAACP policy prohibiting units participating in political campaign activity, meaning that units cannot endorse candidates or make financial contributions to candidates or political parties.
“Moreover, these comments put into serious question the Lima NAACP Unit’s ability to be fair and impartial to all candidates,” the memo continued.
A response from the unit was also published Monday denouncing the Berger campaign’s reasoning for declining, saying that Carol Fails was not speaking on behalf of the unit.
The “NAACP doesn’t prohibit members to have their own personal views regarding candidates,” the statement read. “Dr. Fails was not speaking on behalf of the unit. Only the president of the unit speaks on behalf of the unit. As of to date, Ron Fails, president of the unit, has made no political endorsement of any candidate, which is consistent with the bylaws of the organization.”
Fails had previously expressed doubts last week that Berger would attend.
Cheney said he still plans on attending the event, which the NAACP has confirmed will still take place.
“Respectfully, I disagree with [Berger’s] decision,” he said. “A mayor is to be mayor of all citizens, and here is another example where he chooses to meet with, and ultimately, selectively represent.”
Efforts to reach the Ohio NAACP were not successful.