Members of the Greenbelt City Council wrote a letter recently to Del. Jazz M. Lewis, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, disavowing and disassociating themselves from a document posted by Greenbelt Mayor Colin A. Byrd in which Byrd called on Lewis to resign.
In the letter, the councilmembers said they were not made aware of Byrd’s comments before he posted them on social media.
“They were his personal opinions which he is entitled to have,” the letter stated. “However, because his comments and decision to post them were not run past the other members of Council and no vote was taken, they do not represent an official position of the Greenbelt City Council or of the City of Greenbelt.”
In December, Byrd, 28, posted a six-page document on Facebook, criticizing Lewis and other legislative leaders for not holding a special session to address problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, for failing to act on policing legislation and for other policy decisions.
Byrd called Lewis a “total cornball brother who has no business representing Prince George’s County or Black people at all,” and suggested that he resign.
He also endorsed Richard DeShay Elliott, a political strategist who is planning to run for the House in Lewis’ district.
Days after Byrd released his statement on Facebook, the 27-year-old mayor announced his intention to challenge 81-year-old U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer in the 2022 Democratic primary. Coincidentally or not, Lewis is an aide to Hoyer.
The council members called Byrd’s document a “misrepresentation” of Greenbelt, its residents and members of the city council.
“Mayor Byrd erred when he stated, ‘I LEAD my city.’ He presides over meetings — it is Council, as a body not as individuals, that legislates and sets policy,” the councilmembers wrote.
Councilmembers who signed the letter were Mayor Pro Tem Emmett V. Jordan, Judith F. Davis, Leta Mach, Silke Pope and Edward V.J. Putens. Councilmember Rodney M. Roberts did not join the rest of the council in signing the letter.
Roberts said he had no knowledge of the letter, and that his fellow councilmembers never approached him about it.
Roberts asserted that councilmembers violated the Open Meetings Act when they had four or more councilmembers write a letter without bringing it to a city council meeting for discussion.
“I can write a letter — I’m writing on behalf of my constituents — and that’s appropriate. But it’s not appropriate to have four or more because that’s a quorum and has to be advertised ahead of time,” Roberts said.
Roberts defended Byrd, saying he is glad that the mayor spoke out.
“Mr. Byrd is absolutely right,” Roberts said. “Greenbelt is being ignored and all these issues will dramatically affect the quality of life in Greenbelt.”
In a response to the letter, Byrd apologized for calling Lewis a “cornball brother,” but said that the letter from the council didn’t actually address any of the substance of his comments toward Lewis about public policy issues.
“At some point, we have to be more interested in fighting for the people of Greenbelt than in sucking up to state legislators and Congressman Hoyer,” Byrd said in an email to Maryland Matters. “I have nothing further to say about my colleagues who signed the letter. God bless ‘em. They are not my focus here.”