Ferguson city manager, central figure in racist court system, resigns

As one of the city’s top officials steps down, protesters call for resignation of mayor and police chief

By Nadia Prupis | Common Dreams

Ferguson, Missouri city manager John Shaw, who was named in the U.S. Justice Department’s report last week as a key player in creating a racist and unconstitutional policing and municipal court system, resigned Tuesday night.

The announcement came during a city council meeting with the council voting 7-0 to approve a “mutual separation agreement” from Shaw, the latest fallout from the DOJ investigation which found systemic racism in the Ferguson Police Department and criticized several city officials for their active part in perpetuating excessive targeting, fining, and jailing of Ferguson’s majority-black residents.

Despite keeping a low public profile since becoming city manager in 2007, Shaw was highly involved in the policing practices, the report found. He also had power to hire, appoint, and fire city employees, except the city clerk, and oversaw Ferguson’s annual budget—which gave him more influence than any other elected official, STL Today writes.

Shaw resigned a day after Judge Ronald Brockmeyer, also named in the DOJ report for bringing in millions of dollars through “creative” fines and fees and unjustly jailing traffic defendants, while clearing similar tickets for himself and friends, announced he was stepping down from his post. Three other city officials have quit or been fired for sending racist emails since the investigation was published last Tuesday.

In one instance outlined in the DOJ report, Shaw responded to a city council member’s complaints about Brockmeyer by stating, “the city cannot afford to lose any efficiency in our courts, nor experience any decrease in our fines and forfeitures.”

Shaw’s starting salary as city manager was $85,000, but had climbed to $120,000 by the start of 2015.

Ferguson resident Melissa McKinnies told the New York Times on Tuesday that Shaw’s resignation was “the best news I could have heard.”

“If he’s not part of the solution, he’s part of the problem,” McKinnies said. “But now it’s like, what’s next?”

The announcement was met with cheers from some protesters who were attending the city council meeting, but they clarified that reforms must not stop here. They also called for the resignations of Ferguson Mayor James Knowles and Police Chief Tom Jackson. Neither Shaw nor Jackson attended the meeting.

“We wanted it cleaned completely so we can heal,” one Ferguson resident, Larry Miller, told STL Today. “We want to clean house.”

This article originally appeared on Common Dreams.