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Ann Arbor councilmember removed from committees after posting homophobic slur on social media

Councilman Jeff Hayner calls action against him a ‘dangerous precedent’

Courtesy: Jeff Hayner

ANN ARBOR – Ann Arbor City Council voted during its Monday night meeting to strip councilmember Jeff Hayner (D-Ward 1) of all Council committees and other appointments through the end of the year after he posted a homophobic slur on social media.

Hayner posted a quote from Hunter S. Thompson’s novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on the Ann Arbor Politics Facebook group on April 10 that states: “The press is a gang of cruel f****ts.”

Hayner’s action received swift backlash from members of the community and at least five of his fellow councilmembers admonished him over the slur.

Initially, Hayner defended the post and refused to apologize in an interview with the Michigan Daily published on April 12. Later that day, he issued a public apology, saying he acknowledges that the “language I quoted is offensive, recognize my poor judgment in using it, and I sincerely apologize for the harm I have caused the community.”

Councilmembers Julie Grand (D-Ward 3), Jen Eyer (D-Ward 4) and Mayor Christopher Taylor sponsored the resolution to remove Hayner from his appointments. Hayner was recused from the vote, which passed 8-2. Councilmembers Ali Ramlawi (D-Ward 5) and Kathy Griswold (D-Ward 5) voted against the motion.

“No one has managed to articulate how this penalty that you are seeking to impose on me for my transgressive speech outside of this body is going to solve the problem,” Hayner said before the vote. “I’ve suffered quite a bit.

“I haven’t suffered as much as everyone in the community perhaps, you think. But the community has been poisoned against me by this and it’s horrible. I’ve lost work, I’ve lost jobs over this. That’s not enough. Take away my boards and commissions appointments. Go ahead. I think it’s a dangerous precedent and I wouldn’t do it to others, but feel free.”

Grand responded and said the removal of Hayner from committees was about accountability..

“One of the first lessons I learned in campaigning is: It’s not about you -- it’s about the community,” said Grand. “So, in part the fact that this is not just restorative and somewhat punitive is okay. Because punitive is also a synonym for accountable.”

Mayor Taylor said that while he has heard multiple apologies from Hayner and he appears to feel deeply about his transgression, he feels that action must be taken.

“(A) Councilmember used an incredibly offensive homophobic slur front and center,” said Taylor. “And what that did in public in our society by a public official created a permission structure of degradation that hurts members of our community. It distances the LGBTQ community from their government by virtue of this position and that creates real social harm.

“I believe the purpose of this resolution is to help heal that harm as a performative statement on the part of this council that that language is not proper, that it’s offensive and unacceptable and that we do not accept it.”


About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.