Fenwick defends decision to abstain from voting on Lee Statue

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- "I didn't know Kristen was going to call for an up and down vote until Monday," explained Charlottesville City Councilor Bob Fenwick.

Caught off guard, Fenwick says he had just a day to decide whether or not to move the Robert E. Lee Statue in Lee Park.

"It became apparent pretty quickly that neither side would budge," Fenwick said about the Tuesday night meeting. "I was hoping by casting an abstention vote, they would give us more time to work out a deal."

Fenwick abstained from voting three times, and the when he did, the council chambers erupted in anger and frustration.

"It was pretty chaotic there for a little bit, and it's hard to negotiate when people are five feet from you hollering and yelling from three different directions," said Fenwick.

A deal was not reached Tuesday night and the Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces was relieved of its duties.

The chair of the commission says a decision should have been made by the city council.

"Some action, one way or the other, to move the statue or to contextualize in place, something needs to be done. But right now, we're right back to where we were more than six months ago," said Don Gathers, Chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission.

Fenwick says he does not support moving the statue because of the cost.

But he wanted the other councilors to reach a compromise instead.

"You know, I understand some people are really disappointed, but I felt that was my job and that's who I went into it, from what I heard in the community," Fenwick said.

It is not clear how or when the city council will address the Lee Statue again, but Fenwick says there is nothing that will make him change his vote.

"It's in negotiations," said Fenwick. "I'm trying to play the middle man. I don't want to say 'You do this, I will do that.' It should be between these two polar opposites in many respects."

CBS19 News looked at the cost to the city of creating the Blue Ribbon Commission and getting a report.

Of the $10,000 set aside by the city, the commission spent $4,246 on meals, $445 on supplies and $255 on tour buses.

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