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Akron will once again vote on civilian oversight board candidates. Imokhai Okolo is not on the list

Imokhai Okolo speaks to council
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Imokhai Okolo, one of Akron City Council's original nominees to the city's civilian police oversight board, speaks in the chambers Feb. 27, 2023.

Akron City Council will try again to confirm nominees to the city’s civilian police oversight board Wednesday – this time, with no young, Black male candidate on the list.

Council failed to pass the candidates twice due to disagreements over Imokhai Okolo, a 27-year-old lawyer. Okolo reportedly called police “pigs” in a previous social media post, and several councilmembers said Okolo could not be an objective voice on the board.

During Wednesday’s special meeting, council will consider the remaining eight candidates who were all initially nominated to the nine-member board: the mayor’s three proposed appointments Beverly Richards, Tristan Reed and Shawn Peoples, as well five candidates selected by council: Donzella Anuzskiewicz, Diane Lewis, Caitlin Castle, Robert Gippin and Kemp Boyd.

If approved, the members of the oversight board will review complaints brought against Akron Police and issue recommendations on the department’s policies.

Under the charter, council is designated six candidates while the mayor nominates three. Okolo was one of council’s original six picks.

A notable change from previous meetings is that council will vote on its five candidates individually, while they will consider the mayor’s picks as a group. Before, they were considering their six nominees as a group as well.

Some councilmembers had criticized this process.

“I wish the authors would have done a better job of creating an ordinance with more inclusive, knowledgeable individuals in the area, and give options by voting for individuals, instead of a bloc of six by a supermajority of nine city councilmembers,” said At-Large Councilwoman Ginger Baylor in a March 6 meeting in which council failed to pass the candidates.

Baylor abstained from this vote but voted in support the week before.

According to information shared in previous meetings, as well as an online search of nominees’ names, the individuals come from diverse backgrounds but primarily legal and nonprofit experience.

Beverly Richards is an attorney, social worker and CEO of Easterseals, a nonprofit focused on individuals with disabilities; Tristan Reed is a local mental health professional, and Shawn Peoples is a former police officer in Canton who now works as a bus driver for Akron METRO.

Richards and Reed addressed council during the public comment period in a previous meeting, calling for Okolo to be confirmed.

Donzella Anuzskiewicz is listed online as a retired mitigation specialist for the U.S. Northern District Court; Diane Lewis is a community organizer; Caitlin Castle is a school counselor at Firestone Community Learning Center; Robert Gippin is a lawyer and former judge at the Summit County Common Pleas Court and Kemp Boyd is the director of Love Akron, a Christian-based community center.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.