The City of Madison announced it was unable to clearly identify which alder referred to a local activist as a c*nt during a Common Council meeting this past fall. However, investigators revealed that they have narrowed the possibility of which alder used the vulgarity down to four individuals.
The independent investigation, conducted by the Phoenix-based USA Forensic, released a report Thursday stating that analysts were unable to definitively prove which member of the common council was responsible for the vulgarity. However, USA Forensic — after narrowing down the pool of suspects — is still investigating Ald. Paul Skidmore, Dis. 9, Ald. Michael Tierney, Dis. 16, Ald. Keith Furman, Dis. 19, and city staffer Joe Schraven.
The incident in question took place during a Common Council meeting on Sept. 1 when, during the introduction of a public speaker, an unidentified alder can be heard quietly saying “c*nt” at the 8:14:36 mark.
No Alders or listeners responded to the profanity during the meeting; however, the Common Council voted to launch an investigation into the incident in October after the speaker submitted a complaint against Ald. Paul Skidmore, who she believed said the profanity.
According to city attorney Mike Haas, the city provided USA Forensic with audio samples of the nine men whose microphones the Zoom program identified as being activated at the time of the incident. They also sent over a sample of Skidmore’s voice due to the specific nature of the speaker’s complaint.
Yet, Skidmore has stated in the past that he feels his opponents have unfairly leveraged the allegations to damage his political career.
“The city’s investigation into this matter is almost three months overdue without resolution,” Skidmore said in an interview with Madison.com. “In the meantime, my opponents are taking advantage of the lack of resolution to continue to accuse me of making the offensive remark. I await the report from the investigation and the opportunity to independently review the evidence in order to clear my name.”
The report’s audio analyst was able to eliminate six individuals based on ambient noise, accents and proximity to their microphones, leaving only Skidmore, Tierney, Furman and Schraven as possible suspects.
In a memo attached to the report, Haas noted that the results found by analysts are not necessarily definitive and cannot be used as legal evidence in a court of law.
“Because of the Council’s desire to obtain useful results, we asked [USA Forensic] to consider whether it was possible to at least rule out any potential speakers,” said Haas. “[USA Forensic] agreed with the caveat that the only process he could use would not be definitive and would not result in a finding that would be admissible in court under legal evidence standards.”
Skidmore, a 20-year veteran of the Common Council, has repeatedly denied the allegation that he referred to the speaker as a “c*nt” and has implied that the report exonerates him.
“I did not make the offensive remark heard during the Sept. 1, 2020, (City) Council meeting, so I am not surprised that I was not identified as the speaker,” Skidmore said in a statement. “After all of the time and money spent in this investigation, the report commissioned by the City could not identify the speaker.”
The report comes just two weeks prior to the April 6 election of city alders, when Skidmore will compete with Nikki Conklin for the Dis. 9 alder position in what is anticipated to be a hotly contested race.
Due to the inconclusive nature of the report, no individual is expected to face disciplinary actions as a result of the incident.