Leesburg Vice Mayor Fernando “Marty” Martinez and councilman Neil Steinberg have now joined the call for Councilman Tom Dunn to resign, citing “the defacement of proclamation documents presented to our community organizations; disregard for accomplishments made by organizations and individuals within our community, and animosity directed toward these organizations and individuals; enmity directed towards applicants with business before the Council.”
“His continued rude and disruptive behavior towards his colleagues and our communities makes Mr. Dunn an ineffective council member who detracts from our Council doing business in an effective and timely manner,” they wrote in an emailed statement.
Loudoun NAACP President Michelle Thomas has also contested Dunn’s assertion that a copy of the Juneteenth resolution was unavailable to sign Thursday.
“He’s so misleading, and it’s obvious that he’s feeling some sort of pressure because the people are standing up and saying no more, you don’t get to get a racist pass,” Thomas said.
The Juneteenth resolution had been presented to descendants of 14-year-old lynching victim Orion Anderson; Thomas said she went to them Friday morning to pick it back up.
“That was very hurtful, to have a conversation with a descendant explaining why I needed to get this back and what the councilman did, and explaining the offense,” Thomas said. She said she would ask them which version of the resolution—signed, unsigned, or with Dunn’s message—they want back.
“I imagine they can handle it,” Thomas said. “It’s theirs if they want it, and if they don’t want it, the Loudoun Freedom Center will just put it in our museum as a point of history.”
After the press conference Friday morning, Dunn also emailed a press release contesting the accusations against him.
“Because some people and some groups will not accept a difference of opinion or speech and resort to calling those differences hate, I will not resign my position,” Dunn wrote. “I will continue to work for fair treatment of everyone and work against those efforts to divide us.”
At a press conference in the Leesburg Town Council chamber Friday, Loudoun NAACP President Michelle Thomas and Leesburg councilman Ron Campbell called on councilman Tom Dunn to resign over a series of ceremonial resolutions in which Dunn had written messages rather signatures.
But Dunn had already signed the resolutions the day before.
Previoiusly Dunn had either written messages or asked fellow councilman Josh Thiel to write a message on his signature line on three proclamations. One commemorated Juneteenth, marking the abolition of slavery on June 19, 1900, in the last former Confederate state, Texas. It also recognized the efforts by the Loudoun County NAACP and Loudoun Freedom Center—both organizations led by Thomas—to place a memorial on the site where 14-year-old Orion Anderson was lynched on Nov. 8, 1889, which “the Town of Leesburg acknowledges with profound regret.” On that resolution, in his signature line, Dunn instead wrote: “This is a celebration. Lynchings aren’t.”
On a resolution marking Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 7, Dunn wrote “people are violent, guns are not.” On another, marking June as Pride Month, Dunn, who was absent, asked Thiel to write “everyone is equal. Identities don’t help,” which Thiel did.
At the request of the mayor, Dunn went to the town hall Thursday and signed new proclamations for Pride Month and National Gun Violence Week on Thursday. He said the Juneteeth proclamation wasn’t available when he went to Town Hall, but he had planned to sign that one as well.
“We move today as a unified force to call for his resignation,” Thomas said Friday. “It will not be tolerated. We’re done with Thomas Dunn, just as we’re done with racism in Leesburg.”
She said Dunn “used his power to oppress people as they celebrate their particular efforts,” mirroring oppression of black people throughout American history.
Campbell, calling for both Dunn’s resignation and a censure vote, said it isn’t the first time Dunn has “used his council position to make disrespectful comments about citizens, and yet in the past, no town council has held him accountable for his behavior.”
“Mr. Dunn is not fit to hold the office he occupies, as he has lost all credibility to lead and cannot offer legitimate opinions or votes without prejudice that can affect the lives of all who reside in our good and diverse community,” Campbell said.
He said that Dunn violated the Town Council’s code of ethics, last updated in 2009, which requires that “Council Members shall make every effort in written correspondence and in oral communications to distinguish between the official position of the Council as demonstrated by an official vote and personal views of the individual Council Member.” He also called on Thiel to offer an apology, while Thomas also called on Thiel to resign.
“We feel that is a violation of ethics,” Thomas said. “In the same way you would not clock in a person that is a coworker, you should not sign the signature of someone who is not present in that forum.”
Dunn said his choice to write a statement on his signature line rather than sign his name was not meant to offend, but to wake people up. He said, of late, the proclamations being brought forward have represented more extreme, controversial views than in his decade-plus on the council.
Defending his action this week, he the council is becoming “activist.”
“We’re turning to council proclamations for an opportunity to make extreme activist views,” Dunn said.
He said this week’s episode is reflective of the politics at the national level where dividing people, rather than uniting them, makes them easier to control.
“They want you to be victimized by the injustice from the past so you don’t see what the same politicians are not doing for you today to achieve greatness tomorrow,” he said.
He has said he has no intention of resigning, and that he has been very supportive of minority groups over the years.
Burk noted that all council members have a choice to not sign their names to a proclamation if they do not feel comfortable doing so. Both Thiel and Councilwoman Suzanne Fox did not sign the proclamation on the LGBTQ Pride Month.
Campbell said Dunn’s decision to sign the resolutions Thursday did not change his mind.
“This is his mode of operations, is to not necessarily back down, not necessarily apologize or admit any wrongdoing, and never face any consequences, but to believe that somehow he can make these statements, do these actions, not be held accountable,” Campbell said. “It does not change anything on my part, or it doesn’t undo any of the damage, hurt and harm that he’s caused.”
Reporter Kara C. Rodriguez contributed to this story.