A “resolution of disapproval” of Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings that slams the mayor for being insensitive on social media to a litany of people and groups was apparently drafted even before city council’s Civil Service and Employee Relations Committee voted last week in favor of a draft being prepared.
When asked for a comment Friday regarding the draft, committee member Claudia Klein — the only committee member who could be reached Friday — acknowledged that she was handed a copy of the resolution before the Tuesday, Sept. 19 committee meeting even began. She did not specify who gave it to her, and declined to comment further.
Committee members Bill Alexander and Rebecca Wilkin voted in favor of having the law director draft a resolution on the Hastings matter, with Klein not casting a vote. Alexander said at the meeting that the draft would be presented again to the committee for review before being recommended to the full council, which is scheduled to meet in regular session Oct. 9.
Hillsboro Law Director Fred Beery said he couldn’t answer questions about legal matters involving the city, but said the preparation of legislation is the responsiblity of the law director.
“Frequently, [resolutions] are furnished to the city, and what I actually do is review them. Some people, like ODOT for example, will put together their own stuff and I review it.”
Beery declined to comment on the resolution in question.
Alexander, the chairman of the committee, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
The draft states that Hastings has posted on social media “pejoratives for African Americans, Muslims, Chinese, white supremacists, diversity, racism, affirmative action, sexual activity, work place violence, queers, gay marriage, women, homophobes, transsexuals, gays, obesity, disabilities and misogyny.”
Further, it states “members of the public” have appeared at council meetings to “strenuously object” to some statements, and council “desires to distance itself from even the appearance of tolerance for the hostile, abusive and profane language found in these communications.”
The resolution states council “disapproves of and rejects the use of racial slurs, of sexual innuendo, of class superiority, and of depictions of invidious discrimination in personal as well as public communication… calls on all employees and public officials of the City to serve the public, and to serve with one another, in harmony, kindness, generosity and respect… further rejects the intended humor and the virtue signaling inherent in the denials of improper motives for this coarse and abusive language for the reason that the simple use of this language causes the harm, and weakens public confidence in the best efforts of the City Council to accomplish beneficial works for the citizens.”
The draft orders the clerk of council to publish the resolution in the newspaper and mail it to all households in the city.
As previously reported by The Times-Gazette, it was unclear from the beginning what the Sept. 19 meeting would be about, since the public notice sent beforehand said the committee was set to discuss “employee complaints,” while Alexander told The Times-Gazette the discussion would likely center around Hastings’ social media posts.
But no employees made complaints at the meeting. Instead, discussion at the two-and-a-half hour meeting centered entirely around Hastings and his behavior on social media, with several members of the public criticizing the mayor for his tweets and other posts.
Council president Lee Koogler, who was in attendance, said he would have publicized the meeting differently had he called it.
“Based upon the subject matter, it’s not how I would’ve publicized the meeting,” he said. “Obviously, I didn’t agree with all the comments that were made that evening. What I tried to take away from the meeting was hearing what concerns folks had about the mayor’s social media posts, and I think as a person who attended it, I was able to ascertain and understand those concerns.”
When asked if he felt the meeting had political undertones, since a number of those in attendance at the meeting had also signed a civil complaint against Hastings in December 2015 on an unrelated matter, Koogler said, “I can’t account for who chose to come to the meeting.” Koogler added later, “Was the evening politically charged, the totality of events? Yes, it could appear politically charged. But I certainly don’t think that was the committee’s intention.”
Local Democratic Party chair Dinah Phillips, who does not reside in Hillsboro but was in attendance at the meeting, said she went to educate herself on the Hastings issue.
“I went to the hearing basically to be informed, and I felt as party chair that was maybe something I probably should do,” she said. “It was obvious to me from all the comments that were made at the meeting that there were really strong feelings… Of course, the mayor made a statement and then left, but I really felt that tensions were so high that we really could have a crisis on our hands…”
Phillips said she feared the situation could escalate as has happened in other communities around the country. “So I think it’s maybe time for everybody to sit back, take a deep breath, try to get along and make no more comments. I guess it’s kind of like President Trump.”
When asked about possible political motivations behind the meeting, Phillips said, “No. I haven’t had any implication from at least those who are running on my side that they are making an issue out of any of the events that have happened… I haven’t talked with any [candidates] in regard to the hearing, none of them have called me and I haven’t called them.”
Hastings, on the other hand, said he feels the resolution itself is inherently political.
“Any rational person would tell you this resolution is nothing more than to further a political agenda, period,” Hastings said. “The fact that this resolution is introduced by ‘The Civil Service and Employee Relations Committee, William Alexander, Chair,’ is clear evidence that everything in the resolution is sheer political agenda” since the meeting ended up on a topic other than civil service or employee relations.
When asked if he regrets certain social media posts, Hastings said, “I think the only thing I’m guilty of is bad judgment. I think, like many elected officials and public figures in the news, the line between private and personal on social media poses problems that never existed in the past. I regret not knowing the rules of the game, but there haven’t been any rules established yet in the world of social media as it pertains to public figures. In light of that, I would say it’s possible that I’ve been guilty of bad judgment by wading through this murky area.”
Hastings said he did not understand several of the “pejoratives” listed in the resolution attributed to him.
Council member Justin Harsha made it clear he disapproves of Hastings’ social media communiques.
“I don’t condone his behavior on social media,” he said. “It’s just not becoming of what I see for the mayor of our town. Him and Trump should both just put their phones down. I’d say everybody in town thinks the same way, just put your phone down… I don’t want to be involved in that part of his life, that has nothing to do with what I’m trying to accomplish on council. I don’t think anybody should be acting that way, and I know he’s said it was in humor, but he also has to understand that not everybody sees it that way. He’s our mayor, he’s, I guess, the picture of our town. He just needs to tone that part down a bit and understand people feel strongly about it.”
When asked how he would vote if the resolution is presented to council as currently crafted, Harsha said, “I’ll just leave that until the next council meeting. You’ll find out soon enough.”
Harsha said regardless of how the meeting was called, it was “well past due… I’d like to take care of problems as I see them when they’re right in front of me. That didn’t happen, unfortunately, but it’s being dealt with now. We’ll see how the rest of council feels about it.”
Council member Ann Morris said Friday she questions the legality of the committee meeting, and described the drafted resolution as “ridiculous” and “uncalled-for.”
“Personally, I wonder if it was a legal meeting, because it was not as advertised,” she said. “What was put in the paper that we were going to talk about was not what we talked about.”
When asked her opinion on the resolution, she said, “It’s not good at all. It’s ridiculous. That’s how I feel about it. Long story short, I’m just not happy with it at all. It’s uncalled-for, and I don’t even know why it was written up… It was handed out, I think, before the meeting to the committee, so apparently, the meeting wasn’t a fact-finding meeting… It’s just an odd chain of events, really.”
Morris said the city shoulld be focusing on other items. “We shouldn’t have to spend all of our time putting out fires that are started for reasons I don’t know,” she said. “Too many times, council has been faced with situations that wouldn’t have anything to do with city council members… I’d rather just be doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”
Morris said she would not vote in favor of the resolution.
“Oh, that’s a no,” she said. “If that were the case, wouldn’t we have to make a resolution at every meeting if we don’t like what somebody does or says? I don’t think that’s our job, to critique people’s words or actions at meetings… That’s not our job. We carry on the city business, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.”
Council members Wilkin, Dick Donley and Tracy Aranyos did not return calls for comment. Klein declined to comment on how she would vote.
In response to a call for comment Friday, Highland County Republican Party chair Paulette Donley responded via text message.
“It’s a shame that council can’t stay focused on important things to continue making Hillsboro better,” she said.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.