Minutes after being confronted with over four dozen racist and xenophobic social media comments she had posted, a member of the newly formed Lansing Medical Marijuana Commission resigned her position.
Mindy Jones, a nurse at McLaren Hospital, was named to the commission in December by former Mayor Virg Bernero. It is charged with reviewing appeals for medical marijuana license denials.
Officials at McLaren also announced the hospital was conducting an internal investigation into her postings to see if they violated policy.
In her Tweets, Jones referred to George Zimmerman, who shot and killed black, unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida, as an “American hero,” referred to Chinese buffets as “chink buffet,” called for the sterilization and deportation of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer and referred to some women as “bratpopping whores.”
Her vitriol wasn’t limited to race. Jones called people in Saudi Arabia “#towelhead fucks,” argued that children born to undocumented immigrants should not be granted citizenship and said that immigrants should not enjoy the full privileges and rights of the First Amendment.
“I am probably a lot less racist now than I used to be,” Jones said when confronted with the social media posts Friday afternoon.
Altogether, City Pulse identified two accounts each on Facebook and Twitter, which Jones confirmed were her accounts. One Facebook account and one Twitter account were not in use, while the other two accounts were heavily used. Her Twitter account, @MindyJones, was studded with racist comments.
The incendiary posts were made between 2013 and last summer. Jones deleted the Twitter account within hours of being confronted with her tweets Friday.
Her tirades were not confined to national and international issues. In April 2017, Jones posted a photo of two boys and accused them of “terrorizing” Lansing’s Forest View neighborhood, labeling them “future inmates.”
Efforts to reach Bernero for comment were unsuccessful.
“Knocking over the trash into the street, going up and opening doors, and just generally unattending on a school day,” she said last week.
Jones was appointed Dec. 11 to a two-year term representing the 2nd Ward on the Medical Marijuana Commission. None of the other four members, John Addis, Brockton Feltman, Anita Turner, and Tracy Winston, had public social media posts that could raise racism allegations. However, Addis does have several posts from a liberal perspective on gun control that may infuriate more conservative residents.
The appointment raises two issues the city has wrestled with over the years: finding qualified candidates for city commissions and boards and vetting them thoroughly.
City Council President Carol Wood said she was surprised by the social media postings from Jones, despite being Facebook friends with her. Wood said it is difficult to review the posts made by her over 3,000 friends on the social media giant. Instead, she said this was another example of the Bernero administration’s lackadaisical vetting process.
“We had situations in the past where they recommended for appointment people who had not paid their taxes,” Wood said. “This points to a lack of vetting.”
Jones has been a leader of the neighborhood association.
For her part, Wood said a person’s public social media comments should be presented so Councilmembers can ask questions of candidates before they are appointed. “That’s just one of the things we need to be doing,” she said. “It allows us to ask the questions and see what is there.”
Councilwoman Patricia Spitzley said she was hesitant to make social media accounts a part of the vetting process because of privacy and free speech concerns. She did, however, note that the posts would call into question a candidate’s “ethics.”
Newly elected At-Large City Councilman Peter Spadafore said the social media posts were “completely offensive and demonstrate obvious bias.” He said the city needed to adopt a “thorough” vetting process to assure the city was appointing qualified candidates who could act “without bias or prejudice.”
Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar was also unhappy with the social media posts and supported a more thorough vetting process to review applicants’ digital footprints.
“I mean, it’s the first thing I do with applicants for positions for AmeriCorps,” she said, referring to students who might be seeking placement with the South Lansing Community Development Association. “It’s what we’re teaching students every day. Don’t put something on social media you don’t want people to know about.”
Mayor Andy Schor said via text message that his administration will “review many things” in regards to appointments, including requirements such as tax payment history.
“We will do our best to judge the best people for each position when we make appointments,” he said.
Jones endorsed Schor in the mayoral primary last March.
Spitzley said she was uncertain someone with such a social media history could adequately represent the city. “I don’t know how she could be objective.”
For Spitzley the issues go much further than Jones’ work in a voluntary position with the city. She’s calling into question her ability to provide appropriate care for people in her job as a nurse at McLaren.
“If she came in my area, and, you know, knowing her views and knowing what she’s put on …” she paused, “if she came in my room to treat my dad I would request that she not.”
Jones minimized Spitzley’s concerns. “I guess I can see how somebody could worry, but they don’t have any worries,” she said.
“I mean, anybody that would have appealed to this board wouldn’t have had any worries.”
McLaren Hospital issued a statement Tuesday that the posts were “deeply disturbing.”
Brian Brown, vice president of marketing and business development, said McLaren “is a place of healing, not hate.”
“We take behavior inconsistent with our standards of conduct policy, culture, and values extremely seriously,” Brown wrote in an email. “McLaren has taken immediate action and launched an internal investigation into the matter.”
Meanwhile, the chief steward of the local union that represents nurses at McLaren defended Jones on free-speech grounds.
“Nurses all over the country do say bad things on social media. It’s a bad thing for a police officer. It’s a bad thing for teachers to do it. It’s a bad thing for people in general to do it. So it’s unethical to do it no matter what your profession is,” said Julie Murray of the Office and Professional Employees International Union.
“But people are protected by certain rights as well. Whether I think it is right or wrong, they do have some protection there.”