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Groves recall effort leaves no winners

November 19, 2018

The Groves City Council has affirmed the results of the recent election that recalled City Council member Cross Coburn, but it’s hard to see any real winners here. Coburn did something he shouldn’t have done, and so did some voters.

Clearly, any council member who posted nude photos of himself or herself online is crossing a line. That’s just not something that any public official should do.

Yet Coburn is only 19, and young people sometimes do things they wouldn’t a few years later. Nude photos are also common on gay dating apps. That doesn’t make it right, but it’s a point to keep in perspective. At the meeting last week, Coburn himself said, “I’ve admitted my wrongdoing from day one and apologized for my judgment but never will I apologize for being human.”

Coburn also didn’t spread the photos beyond the app. Someone saw them, printed them out and sent them anonymously to City Hall. His campaign consultant called that a form of “revenge porn.” The city attorney and human resources director concluded that no laws were broken by Coburn. Again, not the best judgment, but not something that necessarily rendered him unfit to serve on the council.

That decision was up to the voters. By a 62-37 percent margin, they voted to recall Coburn. Some of those voters would have voted to recall any council member linked with nude photos, and that’s a defensible position. But it also seems clear that some voters just didn’t like the fact that Coburn is gay, even though he had been duly elected to this post.

The majority’s decision must be respected, but Coburn and his attorney said the recall petition included some unverified names. To cite just one alleged irregularity, they said that in at least 15 cases, it appeared that one spouse signed the petition for the husband and wife.

For now, Coburn’s political career is over, or put on hold. Yet local government needs more young candidates like him, and recalls like this won’t encourage that. They send a message that certain people aren’t welcome, even though they are part of the community and have been for years.

That’s not good for Groves or any place that wants to attract more residents and businesses to keep growing and improving.

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