Fort Worth Human Relations Commission ousts member over controversial posts

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The Fort Worth Human Relations Commission voted on Monday to remove one of its members over controversial social media posts.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price was among those that called on Commissioner Mike Steele to resign.

“There’s no place for the kind of rhetoric and hateful foolishness that I have read,” said resident Eva English-Clay.

Steele’s position on the Human Relations Commission on the line Monday night as several speakers called for his removal.

“I don’t expect to find someone who is essentially opposed to the mission of this commission sitting on it,” said resident Greg Hughes.  

Steele is one of ten people on the commission tasked with consulting the city on racial, religious or ethnic discrimination.

TCU Professor Emily Farris says she shared screenshots from Steele's public Facebook page and started an online petition for his removal from the commission after calling some posts offensive.

“Many people across Fort Worth, as well as the nation, want Mr. Steele removed from this commission,” she said.

In one post, Farris says Steele shared a photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Caitlin Jenner with the caption “Wow…a terminator and a transformer in the same pic.” Another one showed Steele sharing an article about immigration and writing at the top: “Agreed. Buy ammo.”

Farris wrote: “If your reaction to immigrants is ‘buy ammo,’ how are you tasked with making Fort Worth ‘a welcoming community for all people’ as one of the stated goals of the Human Relations Commission of the City of Fort Worth?”

Steele has been an HRC commissioner since 2015 and is eligible for reappointment in October. But after a unanimous vote, the HRC recommended Steele be removed from his position.

Assistant City Manager Valerie Washington says the vetting process for unpaid volunteer positions like Steele’s doesn’t include a deep dive of their social media.

“Looking at everything from an equity lens, it’s very difficult to leave a board member on a board that does not seem to be in line with that philosophy,” Washington said. “I think there is an opportunity for us to improve on our social media policy in looking at all of our boards and commissions.”

Steele was absent from Monday’s meeting but released a statement saying: “The social media writings by five Fort Worth City Council members regarding an attempt to remove me from the Human Relations Commission violated the Texas Open Meetings Act. I reserve the right to take further civil legal action.”