Outrage in Kenosha County over three people being appointed to the volunteer council

KENOSHA, Wis.(CBS 58) — Anger is growing in Kenosha County after County Executive Samantha Kerkman unveiled three new people appointed to the volunteer board. This week’s community members are strongly against the appointees, online and in person.

So far two members of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Equality have resigned in protest, demonstrators gathered outside a council meeting late Tuesday, and inside about two dozen people spoke out against the person appointed.

They say this move shows the regional leadership is not serious about tackling racism.

Brad Backer is one of the people who resigned from the Racial and Ethnic Equity Commission. He told us, “I don’t think that being on this commission, with these two extra people, could lead to anything serious.”

Backer said Kerkman didn’t believe in his mission. “Either he doesn’t believe that racism exists in our country, or, if he does, he doesn’t care.”

Kerkman appointed retired policeman A. Brian Gonzales to the commission. Gonzales shot and killed Michael Bell in 2004.

He also appointed attorney Xavier Solis, who represented the foundation that posted Kyle Rittenhouse’s $2 million bond.

In announcing the person appointed, Kerkman said he was confident “both of them will bring valuable perspectives to the commission.”

But many people are angry. Veronica King told the county councilor, “Shame on you, Kenosha County. Shame on you, County Executive.”

Marieta Huff said, “It looks like the worst possible candidate has been nominated.” Huff continued, “If you want to further alienate and disenfranchise many of our citizens, vote for these people.”

In August 2020 – before Kerkman was elected County Executive – the Kenosha County Council voted 18 to 1 to declare racism a public health crisis.

Sabrina Landry told the Council on Tuesday, “This community has tried to show that Kenosha is a compassionate and welcoming place. Our County Executive must not feel the same way.”

Derrell Greene also resigned from the commission, writing in a letter that Kerkman’s attitude had “shown to me that you do not care that racism exists in Kenosha nor do you plan to do anything about it.”

Kerkman was not available for an interview about the commission, but sent a statement saying in part, “I absolutely did not want it to fail.”

In his resignation letter, Greene indicated the dissolving commission before he and Backer resigned were seven men and two women. He wrote Kerkman “completely disregarded our recommendation made in October 2022 to add an African American woman to the commission and you are making it more egregious by selecting two additional men to serve.”

Solis told us on Wednesday that it was the people who opposed him who showed bias. “I advocate for people of all races, regardless of their color, Hispanic, white, Black.”

The appointees sparked demonstrations ahead of Tuesday’s board meeting.

Tanya McLean is Executive Director & Founder of Leaders Of Kenosha. She said, “This is not okay, and we don’t want this in our community. So we are asking Samantha Kerkman to do the right thing and cancel this appointment.”

In addition to Gonzales and Solis, Kerkman also appointed freelance investigator Kevin Mathewson to the Local Emergency Planning Committee.

Mathewson is also related to the Rittenhouse case. Rittenhouse shot three people, killing two, in August 2020 after Mathewson issued an online call for people to stand up for Kenosha.

In response to Mathewson’s appointment, Heidi Helgeson said, “What could be more irreverent and ridiculous?”

The following is the full statement from Regional Executive Samantha Kerkman:

“I respect Mr Backer and Mr Greene and I thank them for their service to the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Equality. As for Mr Green’s statements about my interest in the development and success of the commission, I absolutely do not want it to fail. I believe that the commission needs a balance of experience and perspectives match the diverse nature of our community, and I’ve tried to strike that balance with my recent appointments.”

The following is the full statement from A. Brian Gonzales, appointed to the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Equality:

“As a Christian first and foremost my duty is to Live my neighbors as myself. In other words tell people about Christ. Next Sam Kerkman appointed me therefore I do not want to do anything to damage his reputation as his choice. I will approach this is the position of being open minded to facts not emotionalism. I will then make recommendations as the commission wishes.”

Here’s the full statement from Kevin Mathewson, appointed to the Local Emergency Planning Committee:

“I was nominated for the Local Emergency Planning committee by County Executive Samantha Kerkman. People put their trust in her to choose their appointees wisely, and Kerkman County Executives know of my background and dedication to our community. I was a 911 operator for 5 years , and have worked directly with police, firefighters, and EMS throughout my career. I also served on the Public Safety and Welfare Committee for 2 years as a Kenosha Council Member, a position for which I was elected twice. It’s no secret that I am a controversial figure in Kenosha County, but to say I am an extremist or a racist is ridiculous. My commitment to getting to the bottom of the truth and speaking the silent bits out loud is a threat to many who rely on the corruption that exists in Kenosha County, so it makes sense to assume that why they are not happy d my candidacy. Those who criticize my actions and statements during the 2020 riots must not love this community as much as I do. Our city bu fell to the ground, and people were literally being hunted down. It seems reasonable to advocate for the Second Amendment and encourage self-defence during such dark times. I am honored to have been nominated, and I will always support the right to defense and security for everyone in our community.”

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