The Rise and Fall of Stephen J. Clay

Posted on: February 27, 2018, by :

Stephen J. Clay resigned as City-County Council President last week shortly before the February 19th Council Meeting. His rise to power was surprising to say the least, brought about by alleged backroom deals with Republicans, as well as the support of four Democrats who backed his bid for the Council Presidency. His six weeks as President were mired in controversy, and Clay himself was a somewhat controversial figure due to allegations he groped a fourteen year old boy more than a decade ago.

Clay’s Presidency has been tumultuous, firing two Council staffers, appointing Republicans to head three committees, including the ethics committee, among other controversial actions. It is believed that Clay, who left the motion for his removal as President off the meeting’s agenda, sought to have the matter moved to the ethics committee, where Mike McQuillen, the Republican chairman appointed by him, allegedly would have stalled the motion and let it die. During a bizarre press conference earlier this month, Clay produced a bag of shredded documents, which he claimed indicated corruption in the Council. According to WTHR and the Indianapolis Star, the documents in question were copies of ones already electronically filed.

After being expelled from the Democratic Caucus and seeing his support all but evaporate, Clay, who had vowed to fight on until the very end, announced his resignation during a press conference held fifteen minutes before the meeting. The resignation marks the end of Clay’s tumultuous presidency, circus-like in nature to many outside observers, and unheard of in local Indianapolis politics.

The meeting initiated with Clay still as acting president before offering his official resignation fifteen minutes into the meeting. All Councillors were present, as well as a great many protesters who were demanding Clay’s removal. After opening announcements, the first order of business was Clay offering his resignation, “calling on Democrats and Republicans to support this transition,” said Clay in his departure, citing the need to find common ground and move forward.

Clay has been likened to an egoist, a self-seeking individual who sought only power for the sake of power, at any and all costs. Thus Clay’s Presidency, after six weeks, ended with not a bang, but a whimper. After Clay’s resignation, a vote for President was held where Vop Osili was nominated as Council President, the sole nominee. Clay was not present during this vote, but the other twenty-four Council members, in a display of bipartisan unity, unanimously voted to make Osili President of the Indianapolis City-County Council.

Whether or not Clay will remain on the Council remains to be seen — but his tenure as President, in many citizens’ eyes, saddled the line between farce and embarrassment.

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