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Coburn defiant as Groves council affirms his removal

November 16, 2018

Cross Coburn, the Groves city councilman ousted by voters last week in a recall drive, stood defiantly before his former colleagues on Thursday as they affirmed the election results removing him from office.

“This fight is far from over,” he said in the council chambers as a standing-room only crowd looked on. “These small-minded men will never be able to take away our voice and will soon find, as the Supreme Court Justice Brandeis famously said, ‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant.’”

Coburn was targeted for recall after nude photos of him from a gay dating app were anonymously mailed to City Hall earlier this year. The measure passed Nov. 6 by a two-thirds majority.

Coburn’s attorney, Jill Pierce, who has alleged extensive “fraud and forgery” with the recall petition, said she filed an election contest Wednesday challenging whether it should have been put on the ballot.

Pierce wasn’t sure Thursday evening if the city had been served with those papers yet.

The City Council stopped short of appointing a replacement to the open Ward 1 seat, saying it wanted more time to ensure all the members could review letters of interest from four potential replacements.

Chris Borne, Jessica Borne, Holly Horton and Mark McAdams all have expressed interest, Mayor Brad P. Bailey said.

Bailey said the extra time will also allow the city to ensure the potential appointees live in the district and meet other requirements. He said the council wants to pay close attention to the state election code because it doesn’t have much experience appointing new members.

A resident who spoke at the meeting suggested the council consider appointing community activist Suzanne Williamson, who ran against Bailey and withdrew from a runoff election earlier this week. Williamson trailed Bailey by 101 votes.

“We are a divided city,” the man said. He added, “Appointing Ms. Williamson to Ward 1 would begin to change people’s opinion of the council.”

Williamson said in a Facebook post she chose to withdraw in part because the majority of Groves’ registered voters didn’t vote for mayor, leading her to believe they prefer to stay with current leadership. Bailey has been mayor since 2000.

Bailey said the council likely will end up considering only candidates who have submitted letters of interest. It’s expected to vote on Coburn’s replacement at its Nov. 26 meeting.

Coburn showed up to tell the council how he felt about the circumstances surrounding his removal.

“I’ve admitted my wrongdoing from day one and apologized for my judgment but never will I apologize for being human,” he said. “Now if the grown men that are still on this council will admit theirs, this city may be able to finally heal this division.”

Bailey declined to respond to Coburn’s comments.

Coburn said people from across the country have reached out to him with encouraging words and stories similar to his. He plans to continue to be politically involved and is considering moving into community activism.

kaitlin.bain@beaumontenterprise.com

twitter.com/KaitlinBain

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