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Wilmington City Council committee votes to keep Congo out of 2nd District seat

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Courtesy of Wilmington City Council
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Earnest "Trippi" Congo II

The incoming Wilmington City Council president will not be able to serve out the rest of his term representing the 2nd District. 

Five of the eleven council members present at a Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday voted that Trippi Congo moved from the 2nd District, and therefore gave up his seat representing it on Council. 

Retiring Councilman Bud Freel chaired the committee, and announced after the vote that the 2nd District seat “will remain vacant.”

Congo told a reporter in July he moved out of his district, which violates the qualifications for council members under the city charter. But he defended himself Wednesday. 

“I know what the charter reads, and I never ran from, I’ve never hid from my actions,” Congo said. “I took action to correct my actions. And again I never changed my residency.”

Several Council members, including Linda Gray, objected to the process through which Congo apparently lost access to virtual meetings and his salary before Council could vote to certify the vacancy.

“Our President [Hanifa Shabazz] unilaterally charged Councilman Congo, convicted him and sentenced him,” Gray said. “I know nowhere in the United States and from my legal background where there isn’t some type of due process.”

Gray, along with City Councilwoman Michelle Harlee, declined to vote on the vacancy issue Wednesday.

Outgoing City Council President Hanifa Shabazz defended her actions. 

“I took an oath … that I would uphold the charter,” she said. “As the presiding officer, there are my responsibilities and roles that I have to take, and it goes with lumps and bumps, and I've taken them with honor;  The charter reads that this office shall be immediately forfeited.”

City Charter says Council is the sole judge of the qualifications of its members, and has power to subpoena witnesses and records.

Council recently voted against hiring an external investigator to look into the issue of Congo’s residency.

Congo beat Shabazz in last month’s primary election — and will take the City Council President’s seat in January. Shané Darby won the race for the 2nd District seat and does not face a challenger in the General Election. 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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