A dispute between a Delaware City Council member and a board member that came into the public sphere last week started before the Nov. 8 general election.
Lucas Ratliff, a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, opposed the city’s failed income tax levy for road maintenance and transportation improvement projects. Residents defeated the levy by 3,500 votes, or a 60-40 percent margin, with only 2 of 27 precincts supporting it.
Before the election, Ratliff voiced his opposition to the levy on the Facebook page of Better Roads for Delaware, the pro-levy political action committee. He allegedly made “repetitive and disparaging” comments, Councilwoman Lisa Keller, 2nd Ward, said, and was ultimately banned from the page.
Ratliff then created a “fake profile,” Keller said, and uploaded a profile picture of her that was publicly available. Keller provided The Gazette a screen shot image to show Ratliff uploaded the unaltered photo as his profile picture, which displays the council member’s face with a drawn-on unibrow. Keller said the unibrow was a silly stunt during a weekend with friends.
Keller said she was not offended by the comments or the photo. She told The Gazette that she was more concerned about the “behavior not the opinion” of Ratliff and considered it a “professional liability” based on discussions with the city’s human resources department.
“This only matters because he’s a representative of the city,” she said. “… I’m concerned about the behavior.”
Better Roads for Delaware co-chairs did not respond to requests for comment.
The dispute became public when Ratliff emailed City Council and The Gazette last week. Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle informed him that council came to a unanimous decision to request his resignation from the parks and recreation board and the Hidden Valley Working Group, he said.
“I will not voluntarily resign either of the positions I currently serve in. It you wish to forcefully remove me based upon my differing of opinion you are certainly welcome to do so at the next open meeting,” he said.
Ratliff admitted that he posted the photo on an anti-levy Facebook page with the caption “Lisa Keller – Mrs. My Way or The Highway” in reference to Keller’s statements that council would not go back to the voters if the levy were to fail. He denied in a subsequent email that he used Keller’s photo as a profile picture.
“I fully understand that this is 100 percent related to the failure of the levy and would have never occurred had the levy passed,” he said.
Ratliff told The Gazette he questioned why the matter was brought up months after the alleged incident. He provided The Gazette a screen shot of his post that featured Keller’s photo with the caption.
When The Gazette presented Keller’s screen shot to Ratliff, he said the additional Facebook profile created was a duplicate one, not fake, because it was under his name.
“Her photo was never used as a profile picture,” he said in an email. “… I never set the picture of Lisa as a profile picture it may have been posted and had the same ‘Mrs. My Way or the Highway’ but it was never a profile picture. I was on the [account] one time for no more than a few minutes …”
“… The duplicate account was created to repost the comment that was deleted by somebody from the Better Roads for Delaware group. When the comment was deleted it said I made a personal attack, which I believe was an exaggeration. I responded to Lisa’s post claiming she was being portrayed as a pig and said I have no pity for council, but I do for those being impacted should the levy pass. I also stated Lisa does not know city budgets and to contact the finance department if you have questions and to talk to Lisa if you have questions on essential oils since that is her profession.
“Regardless if the picture was posted/made a profile picture I did not create the picture or attempt to deceive anybody by making a fake/duplicate profile. If I altered Lisa’s picture in some way I could see where she could say I was trying to embarrass her, but that is obviously not the case.”
Keller said she presented the screen shot to council members before the election when it was decided to cut ties with Ratliff, she said, but action was not immediately taken because Riggle was out of town to take care of family matters through the remainder of the year.
Ratliff said he plans to meet with Riggle and City Manager Tom Homan this week. Riggle said much of what Ratliff said was inaccurate or out of context including that she told him that “you’re either for the city or against the city and it’s clear you’re against it.” She added that she did not tell Ratliff that council had come to a unanimous decision to ask for his resignation.
Members for the city’s various boards, committees and commissions are nominated by the Mayor and approved by council.
It’s unclear whether the matter will be addressed at Monday’s council meeting, Keller said.
“Something will be done,” she said.
Brandon Klein can be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.