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Mayor’s Wife Helped Circulate Petition Seeking Recall of Gay Councilman

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Cross Coburn’s attorney says leaked Grindr photos came from inside City Hall.

By Lourdes Zavaleta 

GROVES, Texas  — A petition to recall gay City Councilman Cross Coburn was found to be insufficient due to a lack of valid signatures.

Over 900 signatures, exceeding the requirement for a recall, were submitted to Kimbra Lowery, Groves city clerk, on May 23. A majority of those signatures did not include a required voter ID number, and some signers were not Groves citizens, Lowery told the Beaumont Enterprise.

Residents in the Beaumont suburb launched the petition after Coburn, 19, was publicly outed in February when an anonymous mailer sent his nude photos from the gay dating app Grindr to City Hall.

Petition organizer William L. Howlett has been given 10 days to refile it, with a deadline of June 11.

Jill Pierce, Coburn’s attorney, said her team found irregularities in signatures, including forgery, on the petition.

Pierce believes the petition is a political attack from inside City Hall. Among those who worked to gather signatures on the petition was Mayor Brad Bailey’s wife.

“As far as I’ve been able to determine, it’s not illegal, but it supports my conclusion from day one [that] this is not a citizen-driven petition, but something driven by City Hall,” Pierce told the Port Arthur News.

Mayor Bailey defended his wife’s role.

“She’s a Groves citizen. She is very adamant that the standards and actions of council members matter and she felt strongly that a recall petition was the correct way to participate,” Bailey said. “This is not a City Hall-driven issue.”

If Howlett resubmits the petition with enough valid signatures, Lowery said she will certify the results at the June 25 council meeting. If the petition is certified, Coburn would have five days to resign or face a recall election on November 6.

Pierce said her client is not worried.

“He believes he’s been targeted because of his sexuality, and the only way we defeat bullies is to stand up to them, and that’s what Councilman Coburn intends to do,” Pierce said.

Under Texas Penal Code Chapter 21.16, known as the “revenge porn” law, it is a class-A misdemeanor to distribute nude photos of another person without their consent.

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Lourdes Zavaleta

Lourdes Zavaleta is a staff writer for OutSmart magazine. She recently graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in journalism. When Zavaleta isn’t at OutSmart, she tutors writing at UH-Clear Lake. She also runs a comedy Twitter account with over 34,000 followers.
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