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Gay Texas Official Faces Recall Election Over Leaked Grindr Photos

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Groves mayor enlisted First Baptist pastor in failed effort to force Councilman Cross Coburn to resign. 

By John Wright

Cross Coburn, an openly gay city councilman in Groves, Texas, has five days to resign from office or face a recall election in November.

On Monday, June 25, city officials certified a petition to recall Coburn, which was launched after an anonymous mailer sent his nude photos from Grindr to City Hall and to local media outlets.

The city initially rejected the petition, but gave the organizer time to correct errors and refile it. The certified petition reportedly contains 936 signatures, exceeding the minimum of 893 that were required. Groves, a suburb of Beaumont in Southeast Texas’ Jefferson County, has a population of about 16,000.

Coburn and his attorney, Jill Pierce, believe the leaked Grindr photos were the work of someone inside City Hall, as part of an anti-gay campaign to oust the councilman.

“This petition has been the personal vendetta of a select few in government,” Coburn said Monday, according to 12NewsNow.com. “This is not a citizen-driven issue, this is a government-driven issue by a corrupt, bigoted government.”

Mayor Brad Bailey’s wife, along with Councilman Kyle Hollier and Councilman Sidney Badon’s wife, helped circulate the petition to recall Coburn, according to the Port Arthur News. Bailey, Hollier and Badon also signed the petition.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bailey reportedly enlisted Joe Worley, senior pastor at Groves First Baptist Church, to try to negotiate Coburn’s resignation. On Monday, Coburn released text messages in which Worley promised him that the mayor and the petition organizer, William Howlett, would call off the effort if he stepped down and apologized.

“I enjoy the fact that citizens are getting involved,” Bailey said after the petition was certified  Monday night.

Coburn has refused to resign, saying he did nothing wrong. His attorney, Pierce, has indicated she may file a lawsuit to block the recall election, alleging that the organizer, Howlett, ran afoul of city ordinances.

Additionally, if the person who mailed the leaked Grindr photos is identified, they could face felony charges under Texas’ “revenge-porn” statute, which makes it illegal to distribute nude images of another person without their consent.

KFDM.com reported Monday that, “Some in Groves are wondering if Councilman Kyle Hollier was involved.”

“He circulated many of the petitions himself,” the station reported. “Reporter Peter Eliopoulos asked him directly and Hollier said he had no comment, but claimed he had never seen the photos.”

Watch a report from 12NewsNow below.

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John Wright

John Wright is the editor of OutSmart magazine. He has spent two decades in the mainstream and LGBTQ media. Most recently, he served as senior editor of Dallas Voice, and covered LGBTQ issues in the state Legislature for The Texas Observer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He resides in the EaDo area of Houston, where he is currently remodeling a 1930s row house.
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