Embattled Plano councilman defends himself during public hearing

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A Plano city councilman faces a recall election in the fall after a post he made about Islam earlier this year.

Councilman Tom Harrison got to speak in his own defense Monday night in a public hearing he requested.

Harrison refuses to step down after the post was discovered despite calls from city leaders and the public to do so.

Earlier this month, enough signatures were gathered for a recall election. The city council voted to move forward, but Harrison and his supporters still wanted a hearing. The councilman has argued a public hearing should have been held before a date for the recall election was set. But when he lost that debate, he decided to go ahead and defend himself anyway.

On Monday night, Harrison vowed again that he will not resign.

"I believe I've made promises to the citizens of Plano,” he said. "I'm standing up for everyone and not against anyone.”

The controversy reached a boiling point in February with a noisy protest outside Plano’s municipal center. Harrison’s supporters were on one side while those calling for his resignation were on the other.

It was all triggered by a Facebook post in February calling for a ban on Islam in American schools. Council members were later shown other similar posts in a closed session. They voted to censure Harrison.

When the councilman refused to resign, a group called "Our Plano, One Plano" gathered more than enough signatures on a petition. The council set Plano's first-ever recall election for November.

The crowd was split on Monday night during the meeting with many wearing bright yellow t-shirts of the group that wants Harrison gone.

"We need to come together as humanity and learn to love and respect one another despite race religion or color,” a Harrison critic said.

But the council man’s supporters argued he's not a racist or a bigot and that his Facebook page had been tampered with by what they called "social media bullies,” despite Harrison already admitting to the post in February and apologizing for it.

"I hope and pray that the community steps up to the plate and faces people who have lied and presented inaccurate information about Councilman Tom Harrison,” said Cindy Baccus, one of his supporters.

“Rest assured, I intend to stay and stay the course and resist resignation of my duly-elected position on the Plano City Council,” Harrison said.

Nothing was said or done Monday night to change the upcoming recall election set for November 8.