Councilman Yarborough Issues Statement on Ahmed Vote
During last night's City Council meeting, Councilman Clay Yarborough read the following statement to explain his reason for opposing the appointment of Dr. Parvez Ahmed to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission.
The following is the complete text of Yarborough's statement to the council.
The Resolution to confirm the appointment of Dr. Parvez Ahmed to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission was introduced on the March 9, 2010, Council agenda.
Given the number of nominees for the City’s various boards and commissions appearing before the Council Rules Committee on a regular basis, unless a Council Member is personally acquainted with a nominee, it is difficult in a sometimes less than one minute introduction to have a good understanding of one’s background, affiliations, experiences, and motivations for desiring to serve on whichever board or commission they have been nominated for. In light of this, and in an effort to better get to know Dr. Ahmed prior to the Rules Committee meeting on April 5, I emailed him some questions.
Though I inquired specifically about Dr. Ahmed’s recent service as national chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, and also about his service on the board of the Florida ACLU, the questions posed were based solely upon the current ‘Vision and Purpose’ of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission, which lists those groups it seeks to create understanding among and eliminate antagonism between. It was my understanding that the commission could potentially have influence over the issues I asked questions about. After conferring with the City’s Office of General Counsel, I was assured that, though discretion should be exercised, Council Members retain the ability to ask a wide range of questions of Mayoral nominees for boards and/or commissions.
Dr. Ahmed replied back that he did not see the relevance of the questions, but he nonetheless answered them, and in my opinion satisfactorily. At the April 5 Rules Committee meeting, I joined three other Council Members in recommending approval of his nomination to the full Council.
Between the April 5 Rules Committee meeting and the April 13 City Council meeting, various correspondence received by the Council suggested taking a harder look at Dr. Ahmed’s affiliations. This is also what led to my support at the April 13 Council meeting of the motion to re-refer the nomination back to the Rules Committee for a second vote. From the April 13 Council meeting to the April 19 Rules Committee meeting, more correspondence from several different sources was received. At the same time, I was doing research. Among all of the documents I reviewed, there is a letter co-written by four members of the U.S. House of Representatives that stood out (and continues to stand out) and gives me reason to pause when considering the nomination.
The letter is dated October 21, 2009, addressed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and signed by Congressional Representatives Sue Myrick, John Shadegg, Paul Brown, and Trent Franks. The letter highlights their concerns about evidence produced by Department of Justice (DOJ) federal prosecutors in the U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation case, which began in 2007, that they believe points to a relationship between CAIR and terrorist groups.
Directly from the letter is the following:
“As a result, the (FBI) formally cut ties with CAIR. On February 24, 2009, Senators Kyl, Schumer, and Coburn sent a letter to the FBI praising their decision to cut ties with CAIR. On April 28, 2009, the FBI responded with a letter explaining why they cut ties with CAIR:
“During that trial, evidence was introduced that demonstrated a relationship among CAIR, individual CAIR founders…and the Palestine Committee. Evidence was also introduced that demonstrated a relationship between the Palestine Committee and HAMAS, which was designated as a terrorist organization in 1995. In light of that evidence, the FBI suspended all formal contacts between CAIR and the FBI.”
Mr. President and fellow Council Members, regardless of who the nominee is, I would have serious concerns if that nominee was the recent head of an organization under this type of scrutiny from the U.S. government and the FBI.
Therefore, after careful deliberation and in the abundance of caution, I cannot reconcile that it is in the city’s best interests to support the nomination before us and, as I did in last week’s Rules Committee meeting on April 19, I must oppose.
Councilman, District 1
Jacksonville City Council