Henry County Board member accused of making homophobic remarks

Margi Washburn
Approximately 200 people attended a Henry County Board meeting on Thursday, March 16 to speak against board member Jacob Waller. A protester holds a sign showing a homophobic comment Waller posted on his Facebook page.

It was standing room only at the Thursday, March 16 Henry County Board meeting. Approximately 200 people, some bearing signs, attended the meeting to protest board member Jacob Waller. The demonstration was led by Hails Riley, of Queens, N.Y., formerly of the Quad Cities.

The demonstration was in response to board member Waller’s comments about a lesbian couple after he and his girlfriend lost a radio station’s “cutest couple” contest on Valentine’s Day.

On his Facebook page Waller wrote that the LGBTQ community was “disgusting” and compared them to cockroaches and rats.

Twenty people voiced their disapproval and concern about the board’s lack of response to the issue.

However, Henry County State’s Attorney Matt Schutte told the crowd there was no statute that allows the county board the authority to remove a member.

“The county board cannot do what a lot of people were asking tonight. It just simply doesn’t have the authority,” he said.

However, the county board approved a resolution allowing the executive committee and the county board chairman to remove a board member from committee appointments. The resolution was approved 18-1 with Waller casting the lone “no” vote.

In addition to New York, men, women and children came from Geneseo, Chicago, Colona, Moline, Cambridge, Iowa and Minnesota to give their opinion of Waller and his views of the LGBTQ community.

A pastor from Davenport who said he came with his church group told the board, “If not for religious-based homophobia our country would be a better place.”

The director of education and outreach with Equality Illinois presented the board with a resolution containing six policy changes.

The board later passed a resolution of its own. In part, the resolution states: “…there is an expected decorum and professionalism which corresponds to holding public office,” and “…the integrity of the Henry County Board and Henry County has been called into question in light of the comments Mr. Waller admitted making where he stated he would accomplish outrageous personal dreams by policy of County Board.”

The final paragraph of the resolution states, “Be it further resolved that the County Board urges all Board Members to adhere to conduct becoming of elected officials, and specifically Henry County Board Members.”