Dr. Bill Kirby, urologist and mayor of Auburn, announced on Monday that he would be handing over his mayoral duties to another council member.
The announcement came days after Kirby shared a meme on his personal Facebook page which included a picture of a hooded KKK member with the text: “Good news for Trump supporters is that most of them already have masks.” The meme referred to state and federal guidelines recommending that the public wear face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Kirby captioned the post with a single word: “True.”
The post received immediate backlash from the public, with some calling the mayor’s words hate speech. The post is no longer available, and may have been deleted or made private.
Two Facebook groups were formed to criticize the mayor, one public and one private. The public group is titled: “William kirby, mayor of Auburn California fan club.” The page posted screenshots of Kirby’s comments, and the mayor confirmed that he did write some of them.
In an interview with the Auburn Journal, Kirby maintained that his comments were personal, and had “nothing to do with (his) job.”
“(Facebook) is not a city site. It’s a personal site,” he said. “This has nothing to do with my job. I reposted it.” He maintained that he “absolutely believes Trump is a racist.”
At a Council meeting on Monday evening, he announced that he would “hand the gavel” to Councilman Daniel Berlant during the next meeting.
In his written statement to Fox 40 and CBS 13, he stated that his comments “were meant to be private and made out of frustration,” and that from his medical perspective, he believes Trump “has put us all at risk by his lack of preparation” in dealing with COVID-19.
Social media users began calling for Kirby’s removal, calling for him to step down, be removed from office, or be voted out. His term comes to an end this November, and he is eligible for re-election.
The vice mayor and other council members maintained that they did not approve of Kirby’s statements, and some condemned them as hate speech while others called it an unnecessary distraction from the coronavirus crisis.
Placer County has 127 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday. 108 cases are from South Placer (the Roseville, Rocklin and Lincoln area), 10 from “mid” Placer (Auburn and the foothills) and nine from east Placer and Tahoe areas.
Five deaths have been reported across Placer County as of Monday.