The Plano City Council is embroiled in a debate over the online conduct of one of its members.
A divisive crowd gathered outside the Plano Municipal Center Sunday afternoon, with protesters on one side and supporters on the other.
Last week, Councilman Tom Harrison shared an anti-Islamic post on Facebook. Sunday, every council member spoke during a special session, and all but one asked him to resign. Harrison says he will not.
Harrison’s supporters accuse the Plano mayor of using the controversy to force the councilman’s resignation and open up a city council position.
“He hasn't liked the direction of the recent elections, that more conservative members have been elected, and he's trying to skew that with a special election,” said Plano resident Michael Openshaw.
Mayor Harry LaRosiliere says that isn’t the reason.
“This is not about me, it's about an appalling post that Councilman Harrison chose to share, and it's a continuation of prior posts.”
Several past posts from Harrison were shown to the city council at the closed executive session. Council members say the posts show this latest incident, calling for a ban on Islam in American schools, wasn’t isolated.
“It was brought to our attention there are other posts. And there is one that is so egregious, I can't get over it. The statement it says is all slave owners are Muslim,” said Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Ron Kelley
“He is a good man, but I just don't see how his service continuing on the city council can be effective in light of all of this,” said Councilman Anthony Ricciardelli.
Harrison spoke publically for the first time, saying he is not a racist or a bigot.
“I did put an apology out there, I did put a note out there that said I would be cautious from now on, but I will not resign.” His statement was met with a mixture of boos and cheers.
With Harrison refusing to step down, the council decided to censure him.
“The censure is simply a public acknowledgement that we do not condone his actions with the Facebook posts,” said Mayor LaRosiliere.
According to the mayor, the city council cannot take any further action against Harrison, who is an elected official, but voters can file a recall petition.
“We need to come back together, we need to move forward, we need to learn from this,” said Councilman Ricciardelli.
According to a city spokesperson, there has been no petition filed to recall Harrison. A successful recall would need signatures from at least 30% of verified voters, which is 2,791 signatures.