ADDISON — Addison Town Council members voted 4-3 to keep Tom Hunse on the Planning and Zoning Commission despite critical comments he made about Islam.
Hunse posted these remarks on his LinkedIn account to explain why he resigned from the Board of Advisors at Eastern Illinois University’s Lumpkin School of Business.
“I resigned in September 2013 from board upon being made aware EIU had named a Muslim to head the Lumpkin School of Business. After pondering the tragic events over the last couple of decades in this country and the role of Islam has played therein throughout the world as a Christian and a patriot. I cannot support the university’s decision. I am also dropping any future plans for donations to the Alumni Foundation as a result of EIU’s decision.”
The comments remained online for a year and were not removed until recently, the town said.
Fifteen days ago, Hunse was appointed to Addison’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
“I regret those comments,” Hunse said standing before the Council. “I made a mistake.”
“In my almost 65 years, I’ve conducted myself honorably,” he added. “I ask that you accept my apology.”
But Hunse never explained why he brought up the dean’s religion in his post. He only told the Council that he disliked the selection process.
“I didn’t think before I hit 'enter,' and I had no thought incubation before I hit 'enter,'” Hunse said.
He also never retracted his comments about the dean’s religion.
Council member Chris DeFrancisco proposed firing Hunse after learning of the comments. "We must reject bigotry,” he said.
DeFrancisco added that he thinks Hunse cannot fairly look at town business, and shouldn’t represent Addison.
“We are charged with protecting the town, and outsiders are watching,” DeFrancisco explained, adding that potential new businesses and tourists could be impacted by the Council’s decision.
Council member Bruce Arfsten said his decision to fire Hunse wasn’t personal or political; he said the Council has a responsibility to protect the Addison brand.
“Words have consequences,” Arfsten said. “The honorable thing to do would be for Tom to resign.”
Everyone agreed Hunse’s comments were unacceptable. At issue was how far the Council should go in punishing the new commissioner.
Other Council members said Hunse’s online posting about Islam did not rise to the level of termination.
“It was reprehensible, but one comment does not make the man,” said Council member Mary Carpenter, adding that Hunse has not done anything in his role with Planning and Zoning to show cause for his removal.
“Mr. Hunse’s post on LinkedIn does not reflect on how we do business in Addison,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Blake Clemens. He went on to say that the comments were “offensive,” but added it would be “wrong and a dereliction of duty to remove him.”
The Council spent two hours discussing Hunse’s future.
Hunse even called several friends to defend his reputation. All of them said his statement does not reflect on their dealings with them.
“I do not believe Tom is a bigot,” said fellow Planning and Zoning Commissioner Ivan Hughes. “I believe this was a terrible, careless choice of words.”
“Although you have a tough decision, this is a fine man,” said Chuck Chamberlain, another friend.
“It reflects poorly on Tom, and that’s his business,” Mayor Tom Meier said. "But it reflects poorly on the Town of Addison, and that’s my business.”
“These posts existed beyond one moment of indiscretion,” the mayor added, saying he would vote to terminate Hunse.
Still, DeFrancisco, Arfsten and Meier did not have enough support to remove Hunse from the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Hunse’s supporters said he deserves a second chance.
But the Council will consider publicly admonishing Hunse at a future meeting.