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Burlington Will Maintain Ties with F&M Bank

David Hightower | TSPR File Photo
Pastor Rob Brown speaks to the Burlington City Council 04/05/21

The Burlington City Council decided against taking action on a request to stop doing business with F&M Bank.

The Black Leadership Council (BLC) in Burlington asked the council last week to cut the city’s ties with the bank. BLC President, Pastor Rob Brown, said the bank didn't do enough for the Black community after former bank Vice-President Lisa Walsh made a racial comment on Facebook in November, 2020.

In the Facebook post, Walsh said she "didn't want to be run by a minority slut Vice President," in reference to Kamala Harris.

F&M CEO Charles Walsh told this city council this week that Walsh was placed on indefinite leave after she made the comment.

He said the bank also required its employees to take diversity inclusion training, and they created scholarships for minority students at Southeastern Community College.

Brown said the BLC wanted F&M to create internships and offer financial literacy classes for people in the Black community.

"Show us how bank accounts and things work. That's simple, you do that all the time," Brown said. "The only thing we're asking is (that you) target it to the Black community."

Brown also took issue with the diversity training that Southeastern Community College provided to bank employees.

"White people can't teach white people how to treat Black people. That's impossible. Just the God's honest truth."

Brown said he didn't mean the comment offensively, but felt passionately about the issue.

Walsh said communications between the two groups broke down when Brown requested $125,000 be paid to the BLC.

Brown said his group made the request out of frustration when the BLC's requests weren't met by the bank. He said the BLC would have used the money to provide the financial literacy training on its own.

Council member Linda Graham Murray expressed some interest in helping the BLC find a way to set up a financial literacy program.

"Personally, I love the idea of financial literacy classes for all," Graham-Murray said. "Where there's a will, there's a way."

Council members Matt Rinker and Robert Critser also supported the idea of a financial literacy program for the BLC, without the city or F&M Bank being involved.

The council opted not to take up a vote on the BLC's request that the city quit doing business with the bank.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

David Hightower is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.