LA MARQUE — The La Marque City Council censured Councilwoman Connie Trube and removed the Planning and Zoning Board chairman on Monday after both were accused of making racist remarks.
At a special meeting of the council Monday, Mayor Bobby Hocking and City Manager Carol Buttler said Trube told them on separate occasions in 2012 that she wanted to close the city library because only African-Americans used it.
The council also voted unanimously to spend up to $10,000 to hire law firm Olson & Olson to investigate the allegations.
Trube denied saying she wanted to close the library because African-Americans used it.
The council also voted to censure Trube for her remarks about African-Americans on the La Marque school board.
Hocking and council members Keith Bell, James Osteen and Clent Brown all voted for the official reprimand. Trube voted against it.
The allegations of racist remarks and possible racist city policies surfaced when the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas turned over sworn affidavits and audio recordings from former council candidate Deanna Bethea and her husband, James Bethea, to the U.S. attorney last week.
The recordings include people making a joke about the Ku Klux Klan and discussing policy on zoning requests.
As The Daily News reported, 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 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 an interview with KPRC-TV, Trube did not back away from the comments.
“All you have to do is see the condition that the school district is in right now,” Trube told a reporter from KPRC-TV.
Another of the allegations claimed that Chris Colombo, who was chair of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board, used a racial slur to refer to candidate Chris Lane.
The City Council voted unanimously to remove Colombo from the board.
During the Monday night meeting, Hocking read a letter from Colombo apologizing to those offended by his comments.
State law prohibits the council from removing Trube from her seat, but the council can censure one of its members.
Councilmember Keith Bell made the motion to censure Trube.
“I’m trying to let our public know that this council does not agree with those words,” Bell said.
In a long and at times confrontational meeting, Trube tried to explain her comments and defend her record as a council member.
While admitting to what she said, Trube said she never said anything derogatory.
In one exchange between Bell and Trube on Monday, Trube said she meant new blood was needed on the La Marque school board.
“Do you feel as though what you said, on tape and in an interview, do you feel that that was racist?” Bell asked.
“Not racist, but let me explain,” Trube said.
Trube said she should have said all the school board members, including the white members, were failing.
After the council voted to censure Trube, the council approved hiring a law firm to investigate claims that Trube wanted to withdraw funding from the city library because African-Americans used it.
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 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.
Trube denied ever saying that. She said she was a supporter of the library and Long.
But at the meeting Monday, Hocking said he heard Trube say in 2012 during a budget discussion that she wanted to “close the library because only blacks use it.”
Hocking said his wife also heard Trube make that remark.
Buttler said Trube came into her office in 2012 and said she wanted to close the library because “black people use it.”
Trube denied ever making those statements.
“Unless you can prove it, it’s just your word against mine,” Trube told the mayor.
Trube said she believed Hocking and Buttler were going along with the police union in an effort to remove her from office and replace her with a councilwoman who would vote for things the union wanted.