UPDATE, 4:30 p.m., March 15: Coburn’s attorney, Jill Pierce, says the person who mailed the photos may have violated Texas law.
“It is a crime to publish intimate photos that were sent to another with the expectation of privacy,” Pierce told the Houston Chronicle.
Pierce also said she believes “someone is targeting Mr. Coburn based on his sexuality, which is unfair.”
A 19-year-old city council member in Southeast Texas is under fire after nude photos of him from the gay dating app Grindr were anonymously mailed to local news outlets and city hall.
Cross Coburn was elected to the City Council in Groves, near Beaumont, last November. At the time, he was an 18-year-old drama student at Lamar State College Port Arthur.
On Monday, envelopes arrived at the Port Arthur News, KDFM-TV and City Hall containing screen shots of Groves’ photos and conversations from Grindr.
The envelopes with no return address included a cover letter with contact information for Coburn, as well as a statement: “Is this in any way proper behavior of a councilman to represent himself online or a ‘dating’ app? I felt the city council should be made aware of the situation.”
Coburn says he feels he is being targeted because of his sexual orientation.
“I felt like I was being harassed, being discriminated against because I’m a young gay man on City Council,” Coburn told KDFM-TV. “That is my personal life and no one should know about it. I’m sorry if anyone took it the wrong way, but it’s really nothing more complex than this is my personal life.”
Coburn and his attorney reportedly met with the mayor, police and a representative from the city’s human resources department.
“Personally I think it’s unbecoming of a public official, regardless of age,” Mayor Brad Bailey told the Port Arthur News.
“There’s nothing illegal that happened; nothing to pursue at this time,” Bailey told KFDM, adding that there is the option of a recall election after Coburn has served six months on the council.
By Thursday, Coburn’s photo had been removed from the city’s website, but he said he has no intention of stepping down.
“I am 19, still very young,” he told the Port Arthur News. “The reason I want this position (on city council) is to learn. This is my first political post in my own home town and it’s a great way of learning.”
Watch KDFM’s report below.