Vasquez accepts Wildenhain’s apology, will not submit resolution

Vasquez accepts Wildenhain’s apology, will not submit resolution

PAWTUCKET – City Councilor Elena Vasquez says she’s accepted Councilor Mark Wildenhain’s public apology to her at the Jan. 8 council meeting, and will no longer be submitting her proposed resolution asking the council to condemn his words to her.

Wildenhain, in a written apology from the council platform, said his comments to Vasquez at a Dec. 16 after-hours party “showed inexcusable insensitivity,” adding that they didn’t reflect who he is as a person.

Wildenhain said the work he and the council have to do can’t be effectively done without taking time to address this matter. Directing his apology to Vasquez, he said he did not say what he did with any bad intention or to show disrespect. He said he knows that might be difficult for some people to accept, “but it’s the truth.”

Sixteen people went to the lectern during the public comment portion of last week’s meeting to speak about the issue, more than half of them speaking in strong support of the councilman and vouching for his character.

Wildenhain followed those comments with his public apology in which he said he disrespected and embarrassed Vasquez when he jokingly threw a pair of $1 bills at her and told her to go back to Mexico (she says it was Colombia).

Becoming tearful, Wildenhain said he was sorry the morning after he said what he said, and has been “sorry each day since.” He can’t un-ring the bell, he said, but he can offer his sincerest apologies and promise to do better in the future.

Vasquez had called for a public discussion of the matter and asked that Council President David Moran allow her proposed resolution calling Wildenhain’s words racist on the agenda.

After his apology last week, Vasquez shook Wildenhain’s hand. She said she hopes this is a learning opportunity, and expects to be able to work with her colleague on an ongoing basis.

Wildenhain last week said he’s always taken pride in his conduct on the council, and apologized to the entire council for drawing negative attention and “dragging you needlessly into my mess.”

The councilman said he recognizes that forgiveness “of a moment of insensitivity like this is complicated,” and he would like Vasquez and their colleagues to know that he welcomes the chance to sit and answer any questions they might have. He also thanked his family and friends for their love and support.

His apology was met with a standing ovation in council chambers.

Among other items discussed at last week’s meeting, the council approved a letter being sent to the administration asking that the city install new signage near new traffic-monitoring cameras notifying motorists of the 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. enforcement times in school zones. Councilor Tim Rudd said he thought it would be “helpful and respectful” to give drivers that courtesy.

The council adjourned in memory of three city residents lost in the previous days, including former School Committee member and community organizer Ray Spooner, childcare worker Cheryl Smith, and longtime education activist and member of numerous local committees and boards Jean Babiec. These were three very important individuals to Pawtucket, said Council President David Moran.