LA MARQUE — The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas and the La Marque Police Association are calling for the resignation of a La Marque councilwoman, accusing her of making racist comments. The groups have also asked the U.S. attorney’s office to investigate possible racist policies within the city.
The allegations, including audio recordings, were laid out Friday afternoon. As a result, a special meeting of the La Marque City Council is scheduled for Monday.
Charley Wilkison, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, said his organization turned over sworn affidavits and audio recordings from former council candidate Deanna Bethea and her husband, James Bethea, to the U.S. attorney.
The two allege Councilwoman Connie Trube, as well as a member of the city’s planning and zoning board, and other residents made disparaging and racist remarks toward African-Americans.
The group posted some of the recordings on its website. According to an affidavit, James Bethea made the recordings.
The recordings include people making racist jokes and discussing policy on zoning requests.
In one recording, a woman who is clearly Trube is heard talking about La Marque school board member Annie Burton, saying: “I hate to say this, but she really turned black.” She also says that Burton helped “gang up” with others on the school board.
“That is why the school district went to hell,” Trube is recorded as saying.
In that same recording, Trube compares Burton to former Mayor Geraldine Sam, who she called “stupid.” Sam, who was ousted from office in a recall election, is African-American.
She and Trube routinely bickered during Sam’s term as mayor.
In her affidavit, Deanna Bethea said she heard Trube say in regard to the library that “no one uses it but the damn (N-word)” and that the librarian Telishia Long, who is African American, was incompetent. According to Bethea’s affidavit, Trube said the city was wasting money by supporting the library. However, those alleged remarks were not in any the recordings released Friday.
Beyond hate speech
Wilkison said the Betheas did the right thing by turning over the information to local police officers. But while Wilkison said the comments were “extremely troubling,” there was nothing police could do about them and that was why the information was being turned over to the federal government.
“When hate language goes beyond words and actually becomes a basis for public policy, that has the effect of denying people their civil rights,” Wilkison said.
Wilkison pointed to comments about the library and to comments made about Section 8 housing in one of the audio files posted online as being “way past hate speech.”
Wilkison said Trube and officials making the racist comments should resign. If they refuse to step down, the mayor and council should force them to resign, he said.
Councilwoman denies allegations
Trube said she is not planning on resigning.
“I have no idea what they are talking about,” Trube said of the allegations brought up by the associations.
She said the last time she recalled talking about cutting the library budget was two years ago in the midst of a budget crunch.
Asked if she had used racist language Trube said, “I’ve never done that.”
The alleged statements and recordings were made in the City Hall parking lot during the early voting period and on Election Day in May, according to the affidavits.
In one recording, a man who claims to be a member of the city’s planning and zoning board said: “I am not a politically correct person when it comes to black people” during a discussion about Section 8 vouchers and apartment complexes.
The same man, who could not be positively identified from the audio, in another recording makes a joke involving the Ku Klux Klan and uses the N-word.
In the recording about apartments, Trube said she is not for “special housing” in the city.
Wilkinson said there were other recordings and a video. The group did not release those.
Bethea, who had the endorsement of the La Marque Police Association, challenged City Councilman James Osteen and candidate Chris Lane in the city election race. Osteen and Lane drew the most votes and face each other a runoff.
P&Z member accused
One of the allegations claims that Chris Colombo, a member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board, used a racial slur to refer to Lane.
Attempts to reach Colombo were unsuccessful.
All of the people mentioned in the affidavits are supporters of Osteen and spent much of their time outside city hall with the councilman during the election.
Osteen said he doesn’t recall ever hearing any of the racially charged or racist comments.
La Marque Mayor Bobby Hocking said he called a special meeting of the La Marque City Council on Monday to discuss the allegations.
He had not heard any recordings.
“It is extremely difficult to base our discussions based on the affidavits,” Hocking said. “We need to have copies of the audio.”
Without commenting on whether he believes the allegations, Hocking said: “The city of La Marque will not tolerate racism on any level of any entity at any time.”
CLEAT officials said they took the material to the U.S. attorney’s office, alleging that the racist comments show a pattern of racist policies in the city.
Angela Dodd, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Houston said that the office does not comment on the existence or nonexistence of an investigation.
Editor's note: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that Trube is a member of the P&Z Board. The allegations are against Trube and a member of that board.