Hillsboro City Council member Claudia Klein says she did not vote at a Tuesday night meeting of council’s employee relations committee on the preparation of a council resolution disapproving of social media statements made by Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings.
“I did not vote,” Klein told The Times-Gazette in a brief interview Wednesday afternoon. Klein declined to comment on her decision not to vote, and said she had nothing to say about the two-and-a-half-hour committee meeting, during which several community members criticized Hastings for social media comments they found racist and offensive, and complained that council has not taken any action on the matter.
It was not clear Tuesday night whether or not the vote was valid, even though chairman Bill Alexander and committee member Rebecca Wilkin voted in favor of the motion, since council president Lee Koogler said committee members must vote yea or nay or choose to abstain in order for the vote to be proper.
However, after he conferred with city law director Fred Beery, Koogler said Wednesday that as far as he’s concerned, the vote was valid.
“After talking to [city law director Fred Beery], there have been instances in other legislative bodies where this has happened,” Koogler said. “I think it’s a valid vote of the committee, and then from there, they’ll have that legislation drafted and then do what council as a whole wants to do with it.”
Beery told The Times-Gazette that in cases like this, a decision is made at the discretion of the committee chair.
“It’s kind of up to the chair to determine how the vote went,” Beery said. “He called for the affirmative vote and the negative vote, and there was silence on the negative vote, so it just depends on how he determines it.”
Reached Wednesday afternoon, Alexander said the vote stands.
“My feeling is that there were two positive votes and one vote that was not a vote at all, and that would constitute a vote in favor of the resolution,” he said. “If it were otherwise, then any single individual could block a vote just by refusing to vote.”
Alexander said Beery will prepare the resolution, and it will be brought back to the employee relations committee to decide whether or not it should be recommended for a vote in council.
The meeting brought more than 20 people to the North East Street fire house Tuesday night, including members of the African-American community and a number of other locals, including former mayors Betty Bishop and Dick Zink, as well as Highland County Democratic Party Chair Dinah Phillips and all members of council except Dick Donley.
Jaymara Captain and her husband Rodney Captain both said they have experienced racism in Hillsboro on many occasions, and said Hastings should be held responsible for condoning racist attitudes here.
Jaymara Captain brought copies of a 17-page document listing various social media posts from Hastings, including tweets and Facebook updates that she described as “mindless, vile and crude comments,” containing “words that would hurt your ears.”
Among many criticisms, Jaymara Captain said Hastings follows and has interacted with white supremacist groups on social media, and is “attempting to fix the drug problem when he has a drug problem of his own… And then there’s the company he keeps,” referencing Bob Lambert, the former director of the Visitors Bureau of Highland County who recently pled guilty in a federal court to possession and distribution of child pornography.
Further, Captain said she feels council has “bowed out” of the discussion, and by doing so has condoned racism in Hillsboro and Highland County. Both she and local pastor Ariana Jackson urged council to take action on the matter, with Jackson demanding council remove Hastings from office.
Although it was explained by several of those in attendance that the State of Ohio does not grant city council the authority to remove the mayor from office, Jackson continued to demand he be removed. And, as she did at the Monday, Sept. 11 city council meeting, Jackson claimed authority as a “prophet of the Lord,” using numerous biblical references and apocalyptic imagery to illustrate her arguments.
A number of times throughout the meeting, Jaymara Captain called on all members of council to publicly condemn Hastings’ comments, including Koogler.
Koogler warned those present that it was inappropriate for a majority of council members to speak at the meeting as council members, since doing so would create a quorum and effectively make the gathering a full council meeting without legal notice to the public.
Emotions were high throughout the meeting, especially after Hastings gave a prepared statement explaining that his social media posts were intended to be humorous, adding, “any rational person would say that, at most, I might be guilty of bad judgment. That by attempting to express my personal thoughts and assuming that the public could keep that separate from my ability to govern a city, I showed poor judgment. That may be valid.”
After Hastings’ comments, in a heated discussion, Jackson compared Hastings to Satan.
“What world are you living in?” she asked. “We are all children of God, made in his image and in his likeness… So what image and what likeness are you made in? Because you’re not made in the image of God. Your image is the image of the devil, because why? You’re just like him… You’re talking crazy.”
After some argument between Hastings, Jackson and Captain, Hastings left the meeting.
After Hastings left, a number of other citizens spoke out against his behavior, including former mayor Bishop, who said she hoped a solution could be found to “bring healing to our community.”
Jason Burns, a candidate for city council and owner of a local restaurant, said based on Hastings’ comments, he “just doesn’t seem like someone who should be mayor of our city.”
Richard Stiffler, a citizen who occasionally attends public meetings, said he feels that Hastings gets along well with people who agree with him, but if “you buck up against Drew… then Drew don’t want nothing to do with you.”
“I’m a big enough person, you know, Drew’s got a few inches on me, he’s probably 6-7, I’m 6-4. Am I afraid of Drew? Hell no,” Stiffler said. “You know, if he wants to call me out on a back country road, and we get it on, let’s get it on.”
Stiffler went on to say the “bottom line” is that council should “hold him accountable for the [expletive] that he’s doing in this town.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.
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