The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch is looking into complaints that employees working for the town of Gilbert misused their positions to push the “Marxist agenda of Black Lives Matter.” Gilbert Mayor Brigette Peterson said she just found out that Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request back in August for information relating to the potentially improper behavior of several employees, and is now asking the Gilbert Town Council to join her in asking for an outside investigation.
Mark Spencer, the southwest projects coordinator for Judicial Watch who submitted the FOIA, told The Arizona Sun Times, “One might be led to believe the Town Manager’s office is allowing a costly liberal social experiment to be conducted on Gilbert taxpayers. The endorsement of Marxist literature such as The 1619 Project, White Fragility and How To Be An Antiracist appears to have taken roots in the altering of employee testing processes by injecting equal outcome practices based on gender and ethnicity over skill and competency. Citizens are put at risk when this type of bias is allowed by management into a first-responder hiring process.”
Spencer submitted the request to the town on August 2, asking for documents between January 1, 2019 and August 2, 2021. He was interested in political posts by employees that violated social media policies, specifically, those “promoting the political Marxist agenda of Black Lives Matter … as well as Democrat Party elected officials.” He attached six screenshots and names Dana Mason Berchman, who identifies herself as the chief digital officer of Gilbert, as responsible for the posts. One of the screenshots was a meme from Black Lives Matter of Utah stating that the American flag is “a symbol of hatred.”
Spencer sought information relating to “employees who allegedly targeted their co-workers based on their political views.” This includes “communications related to Town staff allegedly enacting Diversity, Equity and inclusion policies, that although may not require council approval should be in line with council policies and philosophies, and allegedly using Town resources and social media accounts to further their personal political agendas.”
Another request was about hiring and promotions in the fire, police and water departments as it pertains to test scores, race and ethnicity. Spencer repeated that request in a follow-up FOIA dated October 19, since the town apparently failed to respond.
He also asked for information related to the town’s participation in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative run by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Gilbert’s previous mayor, Jenn Daniels, was a member of the initiative’s third class in 2019. During that class, mayors were instructed to read articles by Marshall Ganz on social change and social movements. Ganz worked with Cesar Chavez to organize farm workers and is credited with devising the successful grassroots organizing model and training for Barack Obama’s winning 2008 presidential campaign.
A recent article and video from the initiative is entitled, “How to Achieve Social Change Through Governments.” It features Jason Furman, former economic advisor to President Obama and Wendy Sherman, who served as under-secretary of state for political affairs in the Obama administration. Another article is entitled “City Leader Guide on Equitable Economic Development: Navigating Inclusive Growth, Racial Justice & Economic Resilience Post-COVID-19.”
Other items requested by Spencer include documents relating to “The 1619 Project,” “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” systemic racism, social injustice, unconscious bias, “equity and inclusivity,” and Blue Lives Matter.
Peterson came under fire in April for supporting taxpayer-funded insurance for sex changes. The vote failed to pass the Gilbert City Council. In September, she issued a proclamation which stated that racism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, and discrimination perpetuate domestic violence.
During a Gilbert City Council meeting this past summer, longtime Gilbert resident and small business owner Jim Torgeson testified about Peterson’s behavior on the council, “While asking members to abandon personal, political, religious and moral standards, to be viewed as ‘woke,’ she has brought negative attention from those same groups.”
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Jenn Daniels” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Gilbert, Arizona” by Marine 69-71. CC BY-SA 3.0.