Harper Woods mayor resigns after allegedly using white supremacist remark in private meeting

Harper Woods Mayor Kenneth Poynter has resigned after pressure mounted following a comment he made in a private meeting that he understands why a white person would become a white supremacist.

Poynter resigned Friday, according to the city clerk, amid mounting pressure for him to do so.

The resignation came after a private meeting where resident and community leader Jaye Hill said he can 'see white people can become white supremacists.' 

Hill was one of a handful of people in a closed-door meeting with the mayor and Public Safety Director Vince Smith last week as they talked about race relations, working together and the protests over the death of 37-year-old Priscilla Slater, who died while in police custody.

The city released this statement regarding Poynter's resignation:

"Over the course of more than two decades, former Mayor Poynter has provided the residents of the City of Harper Woods with effective and efficient leadership. His love for the city is unquestioned. His organization of and participation in city events has gone well above the call of duty.

Unfortunately, recent comments made by former Mayor Poynter did not and do not reflect the values and beliefs of city administration, business leaders and residents of the City of Harper Woods.

This change of leadership will allow the City of Harper Woods to maintain and enhance fundamental civil liberties and rights owed to each and every person who comes within the boundaries of the city of Harper Woods whether it be to live, work or play."

Harper woods is 58 percent Black and there have been growing calls for Poynter to resign, most notably on Thursday when the activist group Detroit Will Breathe protested for his resignation.

Hill says leading up to the white supremacist comment; the mayor told the group that one of the protestors made crude gestures and inappropriate remarks to his wife. 

"I had some words for him and saying, 'Look I understand where you felt what was done to you, was incorrect, which I agree, and to your wife. But for what you just said, there is something in your heart, '" Hill said.

Harper Wood's interim city manager John Szymanski called for the mayor's resignation Thursday for the white supremacist comment. Szymanski was in the private meeting when the mayor made the alleged remark and offered this statement:

"Recent comments by Mayor Poynter do not reflect the values or beliefs of the administration or residents of the City of Harper Woods. As such, I have personally asked Mayor Poynter to immediately resign from office in order that we can move forward."

The mayor's comment is said to have come after he told people in that private meeting about his wife being insulted during a protest over Slater's death. She responded by ripping up a protester's sign and later apologized.