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Iowa city urged to cut ties with bank over racist comment

December 24, 2020 GMT

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) — A racial equity group is urging the city of Burlington to sever ties with a local bank because of an official’s racist comment on social media.

The Black Leadership Council is outraged that the city is still doing business with Farmers & Merchants Bank & Trust after one of the bank’s vice presidents, Lisa Walsh, used a racist slur against Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in a November Facebook post, the Hawk Eye reports.

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“Are you going to withdraw the money out of F&M?” the group’s president, the Rev. Rob Brown, asked the City Council this week. “That’s the way you show the Black community ‘We stand with you, and the same way you all are disgusted with the situation, we’re disgusted with it equally.’”

F&M Bank & Trust President Charles Walsh issued a statement saying Lisa Walsh has been placed on indefinite administrative leave. He described the post as “racist, sexist and hurtful” and apologized for the “pain and anguish” it caused.

He said Lisa Walsh has indicated that she “feels ashamed and remorseful.”

Burlington does the majority of its banking with Two Rivers Bank & Trust, but it does have a pass-through account with F&M through which it issues paychecks and covers other expenses. Local school boards have considered closing out their F&M accounts following Walsh’s comment.

Burlington Mayor Jon Billups told The Hawk Eye on Tuesday that he has been in discussions with F&M about the issue. The Walsh family owns 53% of the bank, and Lisa Walsh owns about 11%.

“We’ll continue to look at the city’s relationship with F&M and continue to make decisions,” Billups said.

In a previous work session, Billups read aloud a letter he had written and sent to local church leaders condemning Walsh’s comments and apologizing for not having spoken out about the issue sooner. He said he did not feel that Lisa Walsh’s comments reflected the thoughts of the Walsh family at large or of F&M’s “good-hearted, hard-working employees who depend on the bank for their employment.”