Council spars over comments, social media

An allegation of sexism was levied during the Devine City Council meeting on August 18, when several Council members took the opportunity to criticize each other’s behavior.
District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall called for a point of order early in the meeting and read a prepared statement addressing comments made by District 2 Councilman Steve Lopez that she described as “age-old sexism at its best.”
Lopez reportedly made the remark in question during the Special meeting on Aug. 13, and though its exact wording can’t be verified due to a malfunction with the City’s audio recording, sources at that meeting agreed it was recounted accurately.
“Last Thursday night, Mr. Steve Lopez made a statement that shocked me to my core,” Randall said. “His words were, quote, ‘You know how women are. They are mean.'”
Randall, who is the sole woman on the Council, said she took offense.
“The City Council should create a culture of civility to prevent harassment, especially in the Council chamber,” Randall said. “Just like there’s no room for this Council chamber for men who leave bruises on women, there’s no room in the Council chamber for attitudes that believe all women are mean.”
Randall called for an apology from Lopez, who took the floor to respond to her remarks.
Lopez stated that he asked Rob Flores, the City’s Emergency Management Coordinator, about playing bingo. Lopez is a member of the Devine VFW, which holds weekly bingo nights that were put on hold due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I said, ‘I have women,’ Lopez said. “‘We have angry women that want to play, but you know how they are.’ That’s all I said.”
Lopez agreed that Council needed to set a good example as leaders of the community.
“So with this being said, if I offended anyone, that was not by intent,” Lopez said. “And I am a big enough person to apologize.”
Lopez also criticized Mayor Cory Thompson, who posted a message on his political Facebook page on Aug. 13 that stated in part, “There was a comment made at the special council meeting tonight by a council member that I found astonishingly inappropriate and sexist.”
Thompson did not identify Lopez or specify what was said.
“All Facebook is good for is for people to stir up other people when they haven’t even reached out to the person before posting anything,” Lopez said. “I call this hiding behind the mask. Anyone is quick to be the judge and the jury on Facebook without listening to both sides. We as a Council need to be better than this.”
Thompson said that he wanted to get ahead of things because anything that’s said wrong can and will be used against you.
“I’m not going to let myself be taken down by other people’s words,” Thompson said.
Council passed a social media policy for Council members and City employees in a split vote later in the meeting (see separate article).
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer