After a raucous committee meeting last month in which some local residents aired complaints about mayor Drew Hastings, and having a resolution already drafted expressing disapproval of the mayor’s social media posts, city council will now apparently wait an additional month to consider the resolution.
A “resolution of disapproval” of Hastings’ social media comments — a draft of which was apparently distributed to the Civil Service and Employee Relations Committee before the committee actually voted to have it drafted — is not anticipated to be discussed at Hillsboro City Council until its November session, according to officials.
On Wednesday, committee chair Bill Alexander told The Times-Gazette he will be on a vacation for the Tuesday, Oct. 10 city council meeting. He said he has been planning the trip for several months and was unable to reschedule it. The meeting is being held on Oct. 10 due to the Columbus Day holiday on Oct. 9.
“My preference would have been to have (the resolution) introduced for a first reading in October,” Alexander said, “but with the time that I’m going to be out of town, and since it needs the full committee to consider it… I believe that we need to have it presented at the November meeting.”
As a non-binding resolution expressing the sense of council, three readings are not required, although Alexander could choose to request a first reading with no action.
Alexander said the committee must convene again to approve a final draft and recommend it to be brought to the full council for a vote. The first committee meeting was held on Sept. 19.
Alexander said he and committee member Rebecca Wilkin, both of whom voted in favor of the draft, along with committee member Claudia Klein, who did not cast a vote on the resolution, will “continue individually to study … the possibilities of producing the best resolution we can,” and another meeting will be held at a later date.
Alexander acknowledged that a draft of the resolution had been prepared in advance of the Sept. 19 meeting for initial review.
“We had a draft resolution, and it was always considered to be a draft resolution, and that was a beginning point for us to go forward,” Alexander said. “It gave us something specific to look at.”
Alexander said the delay until the Nov. 13 council meeting to consider the resolution has nothing to do with the upcoming council elections on Nov. 7.
On Wednesday, Hastings disagreed.
Hastings said the delay was “ absolutely” related to the election. “They’ve obviously moved the resolution vote until after the election so they can either kill it or vote without any repercussions from voters,” said the mayor. “This is exactly the kind of crap people don’t want.”
Council member Ann Morris, who spoke out against the resolution in a recent interview with The Times-Gazette, said via text message that she was attending a zoning committee meeting and could not return a call, but added by text that she also questioned whether the delay was “politically motivated.”
Council president Lee Koogler agreed with Alexander that the resolution isn’t coming to council for a vote in October because the Employee Relations Committee must meet again to recommend the matter to the full council. Committees can call meetings with just 24 hours advance notice.
“The committee voted there should be some sort of resolution, but they never voted as to what resolution should be presented, so until they have some sort of formal draft recommended by the committee, it will not be presented to council,” Koogler said. He said Alexander’s vacation is a determining factor in the delay.
Koogler said he did not believe the pending Nov. 7 election was the reason for the delay.
Council member Justin Harsha, who has said he disapproves of Hastings’ comments, could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. Last week, he told The Times-Gazette was not happy that the matter had not been dealt with earlier.
“I’d like to take care of problems as I see them when they’re right in front of me,” Harsha said last week. “That didn’t happen, unfortunately, but it’s being dealt with now. We’ll see how the rest of council feels about it.”
But now that the matter is apparently being delayed until November, Hastings said he hopes discussion at the Tuesday meeting will revolve around upcoming legislation regarding a Downtown Redevelopment District.
“I’ve spent six months preparing this legislation,” Hastings said. “I’m very excited about it. That’s by far the biggest part of the council meeting… It’s a big positive for Hillsboro.”
The debate surrounding Hastings’ social media comments, which some have said are offensive or even racist, began in December of 2015 when residents including members of the African-American community came to a city council meeting to complain about Hastings’ posts.
The matter was brought up again at the Sept. 11, 2017 council meeting when local minister Ariana Jackson, who describes herself as a “prophet of the Lord,” blasted the mayor for his comments. Her husband, city employee Craig Jackson, also spoke at the Sept. 11 council meeting, and filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the city and Hastings two days after Alexander’s committee meeting.
When Alexander called the committee meeting, the notice for the meeting said it was for discussion of “employee complaints.” But no employees complained during the meeting. Instead, throughout its two-and-a-half-hour duration, a number of citizens criticized the mayor for his social media posts and other issues.
The initial draft of the resolution slams the mayor for being insensitive on social media to a litany of people and groups, and says he 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.” It calls for the resolution to be published in the newspaper — which is not required for a non-binding resolution — and mailed to every household in Hillsboro.
Hastings said he did not understand several of the “pejoratives” attributed to him.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570 or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.