Fenton City Council Member Admits To Vandalizing Sculpture
May 30, 2018
A Fenton City Council member is facing repercussions after admitting she damaged a sculpture donated to the city by placing her hands in the wet concrete.
Councilwoman Cherie Smith admitted to council she had made the imprints on concrete that was drying around the base of the historic sculpture, known as “The Game”. The piece was donated by Phil and Jocelyn Hagerman last October.
Mayor Sue Osborn had reportedly met with Smith two weeks ago after learning about the incident through surveillance video, which caught Smith in the act, reaching past the taped-off work site to make the prints. Osborn attempted to deal with the issue privately, instructing Smith to contact each council member to let them know, but made the issue public at council’s Tuesday night meeting after some members indicated they had not heard from Smith. At the meeting, Smith inferred the prints were small, but Osborn reminded her it’s still considered vandalism, asking Smith if it's any different from spray-painting a building. Smith says yes, because "it's not a scene".
The company contracted for the job was still working in the city when the prints were discovered and have since fixed the base. Council reportedly discussed the incident at a recent budget work session before knowing who the culprit was and Smith says she acted “cowardly” by not openly admitting to council that she was responsible. Smith says she admitted her role to Police Chief Jason Slater at the session, but says Slater must’ve thought she was joking.
Some of the council members learned about the incident through an opinion piece published May 18th in the Tri County Times’ “Just Sayin’” section. Associate Editor Vera Hogan refers to the incident as “a little mischievous and kind of funny”, also expressing regret that Smith’s hand print couldn’t be next to her late husband’s, Ben Smith.
All council members at Tuesday's meeting made comments expressing their disapproval of Smith’s actions. Councilwoman Tracy Bottecelli says she was “confused and shocked” upon seeing Smith mentioned in the article. Bottecelli told Smith, “If I was you and I were to run into the Hagerman’s, I would be very embarrassed." Councilman David McDermott said he doesn't think the act is cute or funny, and believes the missed opportunity was for Smith to show better judgement. Councilwoman Nancy Draves called the act "childish". Smith apologized, saying it was “a dumb thing to do”.
When Bottecelli stated she was put-off by one of Smith’s comments, Smith spoke directly to her, calling Bottecelli the “new kid on the block” and citing her position on the Oakwood Cemetery Board. Council later voted to remove Smith from all boards and commissions she currently sits on until the end of her term, as well as a formal reprimand.
Osborn told Smith she does not trust or have confidence in her. Councilwoman Patricia Lockwood told Smith, "I think your behavior speaks against everything that we all stand for here.” Smith plans to write an apology letter to be published at a later date.
It could not be said conclusively whether any costs were incurred by the additional work that was done in repairing the sculpture's base. The base was referred to as “temporary” in the aforementioned article and by Smith herself, though it is unclear why either does not believe it to be a permanent part of the structure.
Another individual was also caught on surveillance video making prints in the concrete, though their identity is unknown at this time. (DK)