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New city council gets to business

  • Geoff Ritter photoCarbondale Mayor Mike Henry

    Geoff Ritter photoCarbondale Mayor Mike Henry

  • Lee Fronabarger takes the oath of office Tuesday night.

    Lee Fronabarger takes the oath of office Tuesday night.
    Geoff Ritter photo

updated: 5/17/2019 7:53 PM

A newly constituted city council got down to business Tuesday evening, only to face more lingering questions about domestic incidents at the mayor's house.

At Tuesday's meeting, Lee Fronabarger was sworn in to replace Navreet Kang, who lost his seat in April's election. Fronabarger, first appointed to the council in 2011, lost his seat in 2017 but ran successfully this spring to win it back. After taking his oath and his seat at the table, Fronabarger thanked the citizens of Carbondale for supporting him in the election.

"Now, let's grow Carbondale," he said.

Also sworn in were Tom Grant and Adam Loos, who both begin their second terms on the council.

Conspicuously not sworn in, however, was re-elected Mayor Mike Henry, who said he had taken his oath earlier that day at city hall. And once the public ceremonies at Tuesday's meeting had concluded, public questioning turned immediately toward Henry.

"You should be ashamed of yourself sitting up there," Barry Spehn told the mayor.

Multiple other commenters stood up to question Henry over reports of two domestic incidents between him and his wife that have clouded his re-election. The first, in February, resulted in police investigating an alleged domestic battery, but charges ultimately weren't filed after the mayor's wife asked that the case not be pursued.

In late March, police on foot patrol responded to the Henry home again after hearing screams. Again, no charges were filed, and Henry told supporters on the eve of the election that the incident was nothing more than "a difficult family situation."

"There was never any violence, or threat of violence," Henry added.

The state's attorney declined to pursue charges in the second incident on similar grounds as the first.

However, police reports released after the election indicate both Henry and his wife were found with blood on them -- Henry due to a bite wound on his hand and scratches on his chest. His wife, Terri, also reportedly had blood on her clothing and an injury reportedly due to having been struck.

Since the report was publicized, Henry has faced repeated calls to resign. He has sternly resisted such demands, and also has offered little public comment on the situation, citing its personal nature. On Tuesday, he faced those those same calls again.

"There appears to be a pattern of cover-ups ... any actions of preferential treatment will not be tolerated," commenter Robin Reed said.

Commenters also castigated council members for staying mum on the issue.

"The people of Carbondale will begin to see this council as complicit," Clare Killman said.

As the comments commenced, noise erupted from one corner of the council chambers, with several chanting "Resign! Resign!"

Henry made it clear that he has no intention of doing that.

"Never gonna happen," he said curtly.

When the time came for council comments, council members remained almost uniformly silent. Only Adam Loos addressed the issue directly, saying that he recently faced a behind-the-scenes effort to have his own council seat taken from him. Loos said that during the process, he learned exactly what authority the city council has in such proceedings: none.

"We cannot force anyone to do anything," Loos said. "That's the law. We didn't write it, but that's what it is."

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