More than 500 people have signed a petition defending Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas, who is facing a misdemeanor charge for a deal he negotiated in 2018.

Ann Marie Long, who lives in the Fourth Ward, read her petition in support of Thomas at Monday night’s Columbia City Council meeting. Thomas asked her to start the petition to raise awareness of his side of the events that led up to his charge, Long said after the meeting. 

“When he asked for help, I absolutely wanted to show up,” she said, “even if my voice is shaking the entire time.”

Thomas admitted to negotiating a deal with developers Shannon Sapp and Justin Barnes, in which he promised to support the Oakland Crossings development in exchange for Sapp and Barnes donating to the Columbia Community Land Trust, an affordable housing group.

“Ian Thomas is being pressured to resign for an inadvertent error he made, was transparent about and has rectified,” Long said at the meeting.

In September, Thomas confirmed that Treece suggested he resign from his council position. Thomas said he would not make any decisions until after consulting with constituents.

Long said she does not want this experience to deter council members from advocating for citizens in the future.

“What we all need to think about, in this rapidly growing city, is how do we empower citizens, ... current and future city council members to not feel threatened when negotiating these tricky variables,” she said.

Some of those who signed the petition echoed Long’s praises of Thomas.

“Thomas has demonstrated a long-term concern for a humane, livable community — from pedestrian-friendly roadways to affordable housing to an inclusive community culture, he has consistently acted and spoken to the best interests of the community and its potential,” Kevin Gamble wrote on the petition.

Mary Denson also wrote in support of Thomas: “He was honest and transparent about his mistake. That’s incredibly rare in a politician and that’s the kind of leader I want in our community.”

Thomas pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge in September.

Supervising editor is Tynan Stewart.

  • Fall 2019 public life reporter. I am a senior studying international journalism and Spanish.

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