When person after person spoke before the Columbia Heights School Board last week and voiced their displeasure with Grant Nichols, the embattled official said nothing.
When KARE 11's Boua Xiong wanted an interview a few days later, Nichols couldn't have been more accommodating, even driving to the station's Golden Valley studio for the sit-down chat.
Funny how that works.
Nichols told Xiong he's not who people think he is. He's neither racist nor bigot nor Muslim antagonist.
"If people really know me, that comment is not me," said Nichols, who has repeatedly denied authoring a Facebook post unpleasantly commenting on Muslims' bathroom habits. Nichols claims a co-worker hijacked his cell phone, then used his social media credentials to make the inflammatory remarks. Nichols has yet to reveal the culprit's identity.
If Nichols had been the Facebook scribe, it wouldn't be out of character. His road to civic infamy is paved with choices in poor judgment.
City Pages has learned that Nichols, who remains a member of the Columbia Heights School Board, was behind a GoFundMe account set up earlier this year. The Heights Pride Scholarship was established by "Grant Barbarian Nichols" and was based on "community involvement in Columbia Heights."
A source within the Columbia Heights school district confirms that Nichols' self-coined moniker was a topic of water cooler conversation among education staffers, who wondered why a school board member would want to publicly use such a nickname.
Nichols' penchant for marking his turf can be found on Youtube as well. In addition to various Heights hoops games, "TheG5cents" video page features a pair of clips that you'd expect would be endorsed by a high-ranking education official.
One, called "Lobotomy," spoofs the controversial treatment for mental illness. "My Girlfriend Has Got no Arms" is equally impressive, coming courtesy of videographer Nick Hamilton. It begins with the words, "I like women with Botox lips, artificial hips, and silicon tits," then segues into how the appendage-deficient girlfriend "drives the car while I steer the wheel."
Nichols' taste in videos is complemented by an apparent inability to self-edit online.
According to the Facebook group Remove Grant Nichols from the Columbia Heights School Board, Nichols partnered in a 2013 Facebook exchange with "Karen B." The conversation was referencing an earlier post on the northeast Minneapolis Crime Watch page.
"I like respecting lives," wrote Karen B.
"So people are racist for reporting terrorism?" a posting from "Grant Nichols" asked. "Thats (sic) plain retarded. Go hug a tree Karen. That comes from a parent also. Yes we should all love and not hate, but we should all be informed and a right to their opinion also. With people being as stupid as you. Its (sic) hard not to hate in this world."
An email received by City Pages last week from someone purporting to be Grant Nichols questioned the veracity of quotes attributed to Nichols in earlier stories, asking, "I hope you verified they are from my account? Some of these people have used fake accounts posing as me."
"Grant Nichols" did not reply to an email seeking comment. But Nichols told KARE 11 he's moving forward. He plans to visit a Columbia Heights mosque as he continues "to serve the community," according to the news report.
No matter the spiritual affiliation, the residents of Columbia Heights continue to feel blessed.
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