Summey seeks to mend fences


North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey on Thursday apologized for a pledge of retaliation he made after his Nov. 3 election win.

Summey, who won by a nearly 2-to-1 margin over his closest challenger, said at his election night party, “It was a rather nasty election, and I will not forget the nastiness and there will be some retribution in the future.”

The remark angered some in the black community, and on Wednesday, the National Action Network held a news conference at North Charleston City Hall calling for Summey to apologize.

“These comments were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office of mayor of all of North Charleston,” said the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III, vice president of the National Action Network.

Rivers also ran unsuccessfully for a seat Nov. 3 on North Charleston City Council.

On Thursday, Summey issued a statement that said:

“First, I apologize for my recent choice of words after the election. My challenger’s camp ran an intensely negative campaign, and I should have withheld my pent-up frustration with the attacks aimed towards my family and colleagues.

“That being said, I am humbled by the people of North Charleston and their faith in me to continue leading the City of North Charleston for the next four years, building upon our success, economic strength, and positive growth. North Charleston is stronger than ever and I promise to continue serving all citizens in all neighborhoods.”

Summey, who was challenged by three African-Americans, received 62 percent of the vote to John Singletary’s 32 percent, Chris Collins’ 4 percent and Clifford Smith’s 2 percent. Summey has been mayor of the state’s third-largest city for 21 years.

During the campaign, Singletary accused Summey of giving political favors to family and friends and also brought up a 1999 sexual harassment lawsuit against Summey that was dismissed.

Last week, Summey said that what he meant by “retribution” was, “If I have a chance to do something in your neighborhood and you’re going to resist and I’ve got another neighborhood that’s willing to work with me, I’m not going to waste my time with you.”

That comment angered local NAACP leaders. On Thursday, Charleston Branch President Dot Scott said she was pleased with the apology.

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“He should not have said any of that,” Scott said. “It was the least that he could do, and we’ll judge him by what he does going forward. Hopefully he’s sincere.”

Rivers said Thursday that he was shocked when he heard the comment on Election Night.

“That was bad,” he said. “Either it came across the wrong way, or if it was the right way, we had a problem. Whatever he meant, the mayor said it, and when he explained it, that made it worse. When the mayor says, ‘I’m going to pick and choose based on how I feel about them who gets services in our city,’ that cannot stand without a challenge, and that’s what we did.”

He said he accepts the apology.

“I took him at his word when he said he was going to get retribution and I’m going to take him at his word when he said that he will not, but we will be monitoring, as we always have, exactly how the city provides services,” Rivers said. “Now I think that we should move the conversation to what he pledged after Walter Scott, which was to address police training and the police-community relationship.”

After the killing of Scott, a 50-year-old black man, by a white North Charleston police officer, residents called for a citizen review board and presented some demands to Summey. Summey has said he would work on community relations between residents and the police.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713.