By Michael Nam
A prominent figure in the Justice Department’s damning report, Ferguson City Manager John Shaw has resigned, and the city council unanimously approved what it called a mutual separation agreement.
The resignation comes shortly after the resignation of Judge Ronald Brockmeyer. Both men were portrayed as supporting revenue generation for the City of Ferguson through the use of aggressive fines and court penalties, part of what the Justice Department describes as systemic bias targeting mostly poor African-Americans.
“Over the last several months I have done everything in my power to work with countless groups to bring about positive change and strengthen our community,” Shaw said in his resignation letter, addressing the city as well as the Justice Department report. “And while I certainly respect the work that the DOJ recently performed in their investigation and report on the City of Ferguson, I must state clearly that my office has never instructed the police department to target African-Americans, nor falsify charges to administer fines, nor heap abuses on the backs of the poor. Any inferences of that kind from the report are simply false.”
As city manager, Shaw held the chief executive and administrative position overseeing budgeting and the municipality’s finances, providing him an enormous level of power and control over the city. In the Justice Department report, Shaw is shown defending Judge Brockmeyer, in response to a councilmember’s attempt to oust the judge, by stating, “It goes without saying the City cannot afford to lose any efficiency in our Courts, nor experience any decrease in our Fines and Forfeitures.”
Shaw also heavily praised the revenue-collection efforts by the police department, going so far as to give credit to the creation of lengthy wait times at the court. According to the report: “The Captain noted that ‘[t]he [court clerk] girls have been swamped all day with a line of people paying off fines today. Since 9:30 this morning there hasn’t been less than 5 people waiting in line and for the last three hours 10 to 15 people at all times.’ The City Manager enthusiastically reported the Captain’s email to the City Council and congratulated both police department and court staff on their ‘great work.'”
During the orderly, if tense, city council meeting announcing Shaw’s resignation, city residents called for additional action, including the ouster of Police Chief Thomas Jackson. “Chief Jackson is still an employee of the City of Ferguson,” Mayor James Knowles III told reporters. “That’s an employee matter we may discuss at a later date.”