timberland junior Brush City Council chaos
A controversy over statements that Brush City Councilwoman Jeanine Anderson wrote on her private Facebook page has led Brush Mayor Chuck Schonberger to direct Brush’s city attorney to draft a resolution of public censure against Anderson. Anderson, in turn, secured a restraining order against Schonberger on Friday.
The agenda for Monday’s council meeting stated that a work session would follow the meeting at which city council would hold a discussion to identify potential violations of the city council’s code of conduct. Anderson said during the council report portion of the meeting, which took place prior to the start of that session, that she had taken out a restraining order against Schonberger. The restraining order was granted by a judge on Friday.
Anderson said the restraining order states that Schonberger cannot have contact with Anderson, including via Facebook, or be within 100 feet of her. However, it includes an exception for council meetings and other council related business. Schonberger sits two seats away from Anderson during council meetings.
“The basis of the order is because he has used the code of conduct over the last four years to harass me and he doesn’t stay out of my personal life,” Anderson said.
The current restraining order is temporary but Anderson said a hearing will be held on Monday to determine if it will be extended or made permanent.
During the work session that followed, Schonberger explained that a discussion was being held because the city council had received two complaints relating to communications that had appeared on a personal Facebook page belonging to Anderson that presented a violation of the city council’s code of conduct. Schonberger did not state who made the complaints during the meeting. He could not be reached by the Times Tuesday.
Schonberger furthered explained that the phrase “f the police” had been written by Anderson on her Facebook page. Anderson told the Times Tuesday that a a group of friends she communicates with via Facebook uses that phrase as an inside joke in reference to one friend who had used an image displaying that phrase as his Facebook profile picture in the past and that she did not intend it literally. She also said her use of the phrase was not intended toward Brush police. Schonberger did not display the alleged Facebook post during the meeting or provide the context in which it was used beyond that it had been used by Anderson on her page.
When Jeanine Anderson asked Schonberger how he had learned of the post, Schonberger replied that the post had been presented to him by the Brush Police Department. Brush Police Chief Travis Anderson explained that his department had obtained a record of the post “from another organization.”
Schonberger told the council that the appearance of a phrase critical to police on Anderson’s Facebook passage violates section A9 of the council’s code of conduct, which states that “council members should refrain from personal attacks against city elected officials, employees or residents in speech or writing that are inflammatory or defame any person.”
He said it also violates section A7 of the code of conduct, which states that employees shall interact with all persons or entities in a respectful and fair manner at all times.
Schonberger also briefly alluded to a second post made to Anderson’s page which included the statement “now that the election is over I can say what I want.”
Schonberger did not further explain the content of that post during the work session but said it included information that violated section A19 of the code of conduct,
which states that city elected officials should refrain from violating the duty of confidentiality by disclosing to any person confidential information not addressed in open meetings of council.
Schonberger explained that the discussion was being held only to determine if Anderson had violated the code of conduct and did not represent a criminal investigation.
Councilwoman Anderson questioned the police chief about how the police had accessed her personal account, which she said cannot be viewed by those who are not her Facebook friends. When Anderson explained that Brush police had learned of the reports from another agency, Anderson said that officers should have needed a warrant to access her personal account and had not obtained one.
Councilwoman Vicky Quinlin responded it wasn’t the process by which the communication was located that was in question by the council but rather the communication itself, which she said represented a clear violation of the council’s code of conduct.
“The code of conduct talks about how we [as a council] are conducting ourselves, Jeanine,” Councilman Rick Bain said. “There isn’t a privacy mode that you can go into to disparage our police department or the police in general.”
However, Anderson responded that the statement was not posted on the public account she uses to provide information about her work on the council but rather to her private page.
“Anything that comes off of my private page is not posted to the public,” she said. “It’s not posted to constituents.”
Anderson also said the rest of the council did not understand the meaning behind the way the statement had been used in the communication on her page and had taken it out of context.
“I didn’t disparage our police department and in fact the ‘ftp’ that you are discussing was on my personal page and it is an inside joke with a [friend of mine],” she said. “This had nothing to do with disparaging the Brush Police Department.”
Quinlin responded that it was “pretty easy to judge a comment like that.”
The text of the code of conduct states that the code represents “a reasonable policy for guiding the conduct of elected officials and defining acceptable conduct for dealing with each other and officials outside of city government.”
“As a council we signed the code of conduct and so we are telling you that you violated the code of conduct,” Quinlin said. “Your behavior is not acceptable as a council member and so we are telling you that you violated the code of conduct.”
At the conclusion of the session, Schonberger told Brush attorney Robert “Bo” Chapin that the council was, in fact, directing him to draft a resolution of public censure for consideration at the next council meeting.
Anderson told the Times Tuesday that the communications made on her private account that allegedly violate the code of conduct would not have become known to the public if not for the mayor’s decision to disclose them during public council meetings, which she said would not be possible if her account had not been accessed through illegal means.
“I have a private account that is for me to choose my friends,
” Anderson said. “It means privacy. It doesn’t mean somebody trolling my account to make trouble.”
Anderson was re elected to her position as the Ward Three councilwoman on Nov. 7 with 36 percent of the vote.