Summerfield’s Town Planner Chris York, who made some abrasive and controversial comments on social media under an assumed name earlier this year, has had his key professional certification suspended.
In late February, Summerfield resident Don Wendelken – who runs a Facebook page and a new newspaper Summerfield Scoop that cover and comment on town activities – filed a misconduct complaint with the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) against York.
The AICP is the American Planning Association’s professional institute that offers the certification, which is the main professional certification for the planning profession and one that planners at the top levels of planning are expected to have. For instance, all of Guilford County government’s top planners hold the certification, and Greensboro Planning Director Sue Schwartz, who also does, served as the president of the AICP from 2004 to 2008.
In the Tuesday, April 21 email that reported the AICP’s findings, American Planning Association AICP Ethics Officer James E. Peters notified the parties that, following an investigation, the AICP Ethics Committee had voted to suspend York’s AICP certification.
The ruling against York stemmed from on incident on Tuesday, Feb. 11, when an able-bodied town employee parked in a handicapped spot at the Summerfield Community Center, where the Town Council was holding its February meeting. Wendelken took a picture of the employee’s car parked in the space and posted it on his Summerfield Scoop Facebook page. Though Wendelken didn’t mention in the post the name of the employee who parked illegally, York heatedly jumped to the fellow employee’s defense using an assumed name.
York, using the online alias “Bobby Christopher,” defended the employee who parked in the space, called Wendelken a “stalker,” and used profanity in a series of what many considered highly abrasive comments.
After the incident, Summerfield Town Manager Scott Whitaker apologized for the planner’s remarks, and Whitaker stated again on April 21 that York’s comments were regrettable.
Whitaker also said Tuesday that the suspension of York’s certification won’t mean any change in York’s employment status or duties with the town.
“Nothing will change regarding his employment,” Whitaker said Tuesday.
Though the certification and the ethics standards it represents are highly desired for planners, there’s no law that prevents York from continuing as the town’s planner while that certification is suspended.
“It is not quite the same as licensing,” Whitaker said of AICP certification.
Whitaker added that he was aware of a length of time for which the suspension was in effect but he said he would prefer not to comment on the because he had not yet seen that specified in writing.