Groves councilman gets harsh lessons

Published 11:03 am Thursday, March 15, 2018


Cross Coburn said he pursued the Groves City Council, Ward 1, position last year because he wanted to learn.

The teenager and college student has learned plenty in the last few weeks, and there’s likely more “hard knocks” schooling coming his way.

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Coburn’s personal life, depicted on social media, was revealed recently in packets sent to the Port Arthur News and Groves City Hall anonymously. Let’s just call the contents “daring.”

The packet included photos of Coburn apparently taking selfies while bare chested, a photo of a social media conversation sexual in nature and a couple of photos of male sex organs.

To his credit, Coburn didn’t duck the issue and made no excuses. He simply said the conversation and photos referred to a part of his personal life and that he doesn’t think the revelations will derail his political career.

“I am 19, still very young,” he told this newspaper. “The reason I want this position (on city council) is to learn. This is my first political post in my hometown and it’s a great way of learning.”

Lessons are coming fast and furious, though, and may pile on as the weeks pass.

One is that there’s always someone ready to out you, especially from the safe distance provided by anonymity. “Is this any way proper behavior of a councilman to represent himself online or a ‘dating app?’” was the question contained in the anonymous packet. The correct answer, for those keeping score, is no — especially when you serve the public.

A second lesson is indiscretions can prove fatal to elected officials, as former New York Congressman Andrew Weiner and, more recently, Texas Congressman Joe Barton, have confirmed. Both resigned after social media sex scandals — Barton in the month Coburn took office.

A third lesson: Indiscretions can cost you respect from your colleagues and diminish your effectiveness to serve your constituents. Groves Mayor Brad Bailey said he met with Coburn, Coburn’s attorney, police and a Groves human resources representative. No crime was proven, Bailey said, before adding, “It will be an issue.”

Coburn cited his young age as a factor in his education process, but 18, which was his age when he signed up to run, is also old enough to serve — responsibly.

“Personally, I think’s it’s unbecoming of a public official, regardless of age,” Bailey said of Coburn’s social media activity. He said Groves voters have the right to petition for a recall of their elected representative, who gained office without facing an opponent.

Petitions take energy, though, and Southeast Texas voters seldom show it. If Groves Ward 1 allows Coburn’s social media activity to slide until the next election, he ought to tackle his official duties with renewed energy and get noticed for the right reasons.