LA MARQUE — An investigation by a law firm hired by the city of La Marque concluded that Councilwoman Connie Trube did say she wanted to close the city library because only African-Americans used it.
In his report, Brian Begle, an attorney with the firm Olson & Olson, said the evidence gathered in the investigation “indicates that Trube did, in fact, make several statements regarding defunding the city library because it was used primarily by ‘blacks.’”
On Monday, Trube again denied making those statements and said she was not a racist.
The allegations first surfaced in sworn affidavits by former council candidate Deanna Bethea and her husband, James. 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 city was wasting money on the library.
In a recording made by James Bethea, Trube is heard talking about La Marque school board member Annie Burton, saying: “I hate to say this, but she really turned black.” Trube 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.
The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas made the recordings and affidavits public and turned them over to the U.S. attorney.
In a meeting June 2, both 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.
Trube has denied making the comments and said she would not step down as some in the city have been calling for her to do.
At the June 2 meeting, the council voted to censure Trube for her remarks relating to the school board and approved the Olson & Olson investigation.
Begle said he was tasked with looking into the allegations concerning Trube’s comments about the library and to review the veracity of Deanna Bethea’s sworn statements.
Begle said he interviewed 11 people, watched two televised interviews with Trube, read the Betheas’ affidavits, listened to about two hours of recorded conversations from James Bethea and went over council minutes and videos of meetings in the process of his investigation.
A pattern established
Begle said while Trube strongly denies saying she would like to defund the library because African-Americans use it, four separate people said they heard her make that statement.
Begle said Buttler, Hocking and his wife, Pattie, and former City Clerk Zina Tedford all said they heard Trube make those remarks.
Begle wrote in his report that the recordings and television interviews “establish a pattern of inappropriate and racially insensitive statements by Trube.”
“Given the four corroborating witnesses, the pattern of behavior, it was my decision that there was evidence sufficient to show that this (statement) took place,” Begle said.
He also said there were no assertions in Deanna Bethea’s affidavit that could be disproved, and some were conclusively proven as true.
Begle said he also looked into the possibility of civil rights violations but said he found none. He looked into decisions on Section 8 housing, library funding and an ordinance banning basketball goals in the street, but did not find any civil rights violations, Begle said.
Conversation between council members
Trube continued to deny the allegations throughout the nearly hourlong discussion of the investigation Monday. She grew emotional at times as she recounted the times she had helped neighbors or city employees who were African-American.
She said she was not a racist and, instead, said she believed the allegations were all a ploy by the police union to attack her. Trube said there was racism within City Hall and said she would expose it at some point.
Trube said recorded comments about the La Marque school district trustees were taken out of context.
Councilman Keith Bell, the only African-American on the council, said it was important to have a conversation that could help deal with the hurt and angry emotions caused by the comments.
“If you are saying to us that you didn’t mean these things, that they were taken out of context, then I think we need to hear from you truly what you meant and truly how you feel about African-American people,” Bell said.
When speaking about the school board, Trube said she was stating that the current trustees had failed the school district and a “new set of black people” on the school board was needed. She also said she worked for all the constituents in her district regardless of race.
But when Bell asked if Trube could see how her comments could have offended some and asked if she would be willing to offer an apology, Trube stopped short of a full apology.
“If anyone did not understand what I was saying and they totally missed my point, yeah, I could apologize to those who were not capable of understanding my point,” Trube said.
After the meeting, Bell said he believed Trube truly believed her statements were not racist. But when pressed on what he thought of Trube’s comments, Bell said her words were hurtful to many.
“As an African-American, I believe what I heard on the tape was racist,” Bell said. “But we have to be proactive. We have to move forward.”
During the meeting, Bell said the council had done what it could to censure Trube and he would not ask her to step down. That was a question for voters in her district to ask, he said.
Bell instead asked for those in the city to work together and be positive and not resort to name calling and fighting each other.
“I’m not going to hate,” Bell said. “I’m going to follow the lessons I learned from Dr. Martin Luther King, and I’m going to try to positively resolve issues and heal our community so that we may move forward.”