WESTOVER, W.Va. – The West Virginia Working Families Party (WFP) is joining the chorus of voices demanding that Westover City Attorney Tim Stranko resigns.
The WFP has started an online petition, which said its calling for Stranko’s removal because of his use of “a crude slur” in reference to Delegate Danielle Walker. The petition has more than 200 signatures. Stephanie Zucker, a WFP executive board member, said Stranko’s comment was horrifying and the party thought it was appropriate to join the calls for resignation.
“The Morgantown/Kingwood NAACP branch put out the first call that I’ve been aware of for his resignation, you know, a few days ago,” Zucker said. “And that caught my attention and caught our attention as an organization. And we thought about it and realized they were completely right, that he shouldn’t be in office anymore and so, we wanted to amplify that call and decided to join it. So, that was really the trigger for me. It was seeing their action and wanting to potentially support that effort. We agree, and we think it’s a good one and the petition just seemed like a good way to build public support and to get a number — and we are collecting names and addresses, so we’ll have numbers of people who are you know how many people from the Westover area, Westover itself.”
Frankly, Zucker said, the “vast majority” of signers are residents from the immediate Westover area and nearby in Morgantown.
Zucker said when she first heard the secretly recorded audio, she was “horrified” not just by Tim’s Stranko’s “really demeaning and disrespectful way of speaking about Delegate Walker”, but also the laughter in the room that.
Multiple people can be heard laughing on the recording after Stranko called Walker a derogatory term for women.
Acceptance of the “casual disrespect”, which came out of the blue is, “intolerable”, Zucker said.
“I think it speaks to a lot of the sort of underlying problems in West Virginia, in West Virginia politics, especially in these you know sort of the ‘good old boys’ network that has been in power for a long time,” Zucker said. “Their disregard for anyone it is — the disrespect is never acceptable. But to direct that to the only black woman in our state legislature and also the only elected representatives that shows up time and time and time again to these local city council meetings to advocate for the most vulnerable residents.”
“You know, that’s who we’re all supposed to be working for. Everybody in that room was supposed to be working to protect their residents and above all their most vulnerable residents. And they’re more upset about Danielle bringing light to the issue of these horrible police misconduct problems that they’re having than they are about the misconduct itself.”
Zucker said she thinks Stranko only has two options.
One is that he resigns. The second is that the City of Westover terminates his employment if he refuses.
Regardless of which he picks, Zucker said it doesn’t rectify the problem and it doesn’t take away the need for apologies.
“I do want to emphasize that we do also support Del. Walker’s call for Stranko to apologize to the residents of Westover,” she said. “Because showing that kind of disrespect, I think harms our community when he’s a representative of our community. So, I think that he should apologize, not just to Del. Walker, which he does owe her a better apology than the one I saw. But also, to the citizens of Westover for sort of bringing this shame, really, on their community.”
Walker previously told 12 News that Stranko apologized to her in person, but she said it didn’t seem sincere. She said Stranko approached her and offered “somewhat of an apology”.
Whether his apologies come from Stranko himself or are forced out of him is yet to be seen. Regardless, Zucker said citizens will have the last word.
“There are elections coming up,” Zucker said. “We’ve been engaged in other city council elections and I suspect we might be engaged in the next Westover City Council election as well. If they won’t do the right thing, then, you know, eventually someone else will, hopefully, be in power that will do the right thing.”
Ultimately, the West Virginia Working Families Party stands with Del. Walker, Zucker said.
Walker has said she forgives Stranko. And so, if she decides his resignation is uncalled for, then the WFP will support her.
“She was the person who was victimized, you know, so her opinion I think has to get the greatest weight,” Zucker said.
In a statement, Walker said she supports the WFP petition and calls for accountability.
No matter what happens to Stranko, Zucker said, there needs to be a “cultural shift”.
She said there needs to be an environment in which Stranko’s sexist comment “wouldn’t have been acceptable”.
“When he referred to Del. Walker with that, you know, an unbelievably disrespectful term, that the people in room work wouldn’t laugh and the people in the room would have called him out and would have changed that,” Zucker said. “We have to have, you know, that shock and outrage.”
Citizens have the right to be indignant because Walker, shows respect to “every single person she interacts with”, Zucker said.
“I’ve been around her hundreds and hundreds of hours in very difficult situations with people, you know, calling her the N-word to her face in Kingwood,” Zucker said. “I mean, you can watch the videos. I mean, there is just so much disrespect out there and I’ve never seen her speak to or about any of these people disrespectfully. And, I think, they need to take a note and they need to take a lesson from Del. Walker. Come and learn how to treat people with that kind of respect and that has to be something that we demand out of our government officials.”