The saga of embattled city councilman-elect Rick Brainard continues to unfold in Grand Junction, Colorado as citizens continue to pressure Brainard to resign his seat on City Council. Brainard, 51, won election to the Grand Junction City Council on April 2, but on April 6 was arrested on charges of third degree assault and harassment after admitting to hitting his live-in girlfriend in the face in a domestic dispute. Brainard said in a police affidavit that he struck his girlfriend because she “needed to shut her mouth.” His remarks have drawn the ire of the community. Most of the sitting city council members signed a resolution calling on Mr. Brainard to resign his seat. The local paper, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, endorsed Brainard prior to his election, but rescinded its endorsement and published an editorial calling on him to reject his seat on Council. The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce also endorsed Brainard for office, but has so far refused to pull their support for him, saying he is “entitled to due process.” Brainard served on the Chamber’s board. Mr. Brainard so far has vowed to take his seat on Council despite the furor. He is scheduled to be sworn into office on May 6, coincidentally the same day that he is supposed to make his first court appearance in his assault case.
Citizens opposed to Brainard taking his seat on Council are using Facebook to organize rallies, marches and a phone bank in which they are calling the Chamber’s member businesses and asking them to contact the Chamber about their continuing support for Brainard. Citizens are finding wide support for their position among businesses.
Failed PR Moves, Donation Tactics, Name Calling
Brainard has started fighting back. On April 24, he published a lengthy, rambling statement on KKCO TV’s website defending himself. In the statement, Brainard gives details of the assault and apologizes to his girlfriend, but ultimately blames the girlfriend for the altercation and portrays himself as a victim. Also in the statement, Brainard calls people who want him to resign from council an “uninformed lynch mob,” further enraging citizens.
Brainard’s lawyer has petitioned the Court asking that Brainard be excused from all of his court appearances, saying they conflict with his employment, giving the public the impression that Brainard is avoiding taking responsibility for his actions.
In another lame PR move, Brainard donated the remainder of his election funds, a total of $542, to a local domestic violence shelter, the Latimer House. Mike Stahl, the CEO of Hilltop Community Services, which owns the Latimer House, accepted the funds, but said he did so with reservations. Brainard told Stalh he wants to team up to help raise awareness of the problem of domestic violence in our community, but Stahl said the potential for any such activity, if it exists, is a long way off.
STRATEGY NOTE: Brainard’s financial donation to Latimer House is the same tactic used by embattled corporations to enhance goodwill among consumers and help regain credibility. Cigarette maker Philip Morris, for example, feeds the hungry, helps disaster victims, gives aid to domestic violence shelters and donates money to the arts in attempts to generate goodwill and to try to mask the fact that they continue to sell deadly products. Such donations also help curry favor with the funded entities.
Some Progress, and More Battles on the Way
Grand Junction activists have scheduled a “Leadership Accountability Walk” for next week to keep attention on the issue and are continuing to call the Chamber’s extensive list of local businesses seeking support. Yesterday, Mr. Brainard stepped down from the Community Hospital Foundation Board after theat Board asked for his resignation. Brainard also resigned from the Chamber of Commerce Board yesterday. The Chamber issued a tepid, non-specific statement saying only “Councilman Elect Brainard resigned from the Chamber Board in April. Mr. Brainard has not sought direction from this organization about the charges against him or his future plans regarding serving on the City Council. The voters who elected Mr. Brainard have every right to determine whether he will continue to serve. This incident has brought increased attention to the issue of domestic violence. We hope the community will openly discuss this issue and insure adequate resources are available for those at risk.”
Meanwhile, an online petition titled “Woman-Beating Councilmember Must Go” has gotten over 15,500 signatures and is closing in on its current goal of 16,000 signatures. People from every state as well as several foreign countries, including the United Kingdom and South Africa, have signed the petition as it continues to circulate, and citizens of Grand Junction continue to organize and press for Brainard’s resignation.
The saga of Rick Brainard vs. Grand Junction citizens continues to unfold. Stay tuned.