Copperas Cove city councilman submits resignation, then reconsiders
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Place 7 Copperas Cove city councilman Charlie Youngs found himself with some explaining to do after he made a “rude” gesture on the dais during an Aug. 13 special city council meeting that was recorded on video.
The video of the Aug. 13 special meeting was rebroadcast the following morning on the city’s public access channel, and is also available on the city’s website.
At approximately the 1:49:17 mark, Youngs can be seen raising his right hand and lifting his middle finger presumably in the direction of Place 5 councilman Kirby Lack.
Lack had the floor and was speaking about the chamber of commerce and what he felt were “absolutely false” statements made by Youngs, when Youngs made the gesture which was recorded on the meeting video.
In a conversation with the Leader-Press, Youngs owned up to making the gesture but also claimed that he was, in fact, not making the gesture at Lack, but instead at someone in the audience during the meeting.
“It was unprofessional, it was a crude gesture; for somebody in my position, it was totally uncalled for. I admit that. I’m not arguing that at all. I can promise you that it will never happen again, as long as I am on council,” Youngs said. “I was not making the gesture to Kirby Lack. I was making it toward a person in the audience. It was toward somebody sitting in the audience, that has called me on two different occasions, threatening to come to my house to beat me up.”
Youngs was absent from Tuesday night’s regular council meeting.
Lack told the Leader-Press on Wednesday that he is prepared to file a complaint against Youngs with the Texas Ethics Commission. However, Youngs is adamant that the gesture was not targeted at Lack.
“I didn’t really care what Kirby was saying; he’ll be off (council) in a couple of months. I could care less about Kirby Lack. He voted for FATHOM, he voted for 190,” Youngs said.
Youngs said that at the next council meeting, he looks to take an opportunity to say something in apology to the citizens, mayor, and his fellow council members.
On Tuesday afternoon, Youngs reportedly submitted a letter of resignation to Mayor Bradi Diaz, but then by Tuesday evening had also reportedly changed his mind and rescinded the resignation. The council must vote at a meeting to accept resignations of any members, such as if a member resigns to run for another office.
Youngs said the report of his letter of resignation and subsequent rescinding was basically true, “but I’m not going to comment on that right now.”
He reiterated that what he had done was “totally inappropriate” but he didn’t want his action to diminish the present energy going on.
“We have a very positive energy going in the city. I don’t want this to take away from that, and it shouldn’t,” Youngs said. “There’s so many things that are positive in Copperas Cove, and I’ve got 18 more months on the council. I want to be part of that positiveness.”
Youngs said that there are people in Copperas Cove who are unhappy, that they weren’t elected, they’re looking for things to start. They’re not positive.
“That’s okay, I’ve lived in Copperas Cove since 1984, and it’s always been like that. You always have a group of people who are not happy with what’s going on, and the only way they can vent their frustration is to make it verbal and attack who they dislike, or what they don’t like that is going on. They’re citizens; that’s their right. It doesn’t set a very good tone for the community.”
The council’s next regular meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 3. It is unclear at this time what, if any, action will be taken by the council against Youngs for his actions on the dais. Youngs said whatever the council does, is their prerogative.
Former city councilman and now current candidate for Place 4 on the council, Matthew Russell, used his five minutes during an open forum at Tuesday’s meeting to bring up the matter of the gesture on video, and blasted Youngs, if not by name, for his action.
Russell told the council that there was a “toxic individual in your ranks” and that this individual gave another seated council member “the bird” in open forum.
“As an old full colonel, and knowing the individual that did that was a former officer in the military, that is uncalled for. It’s disrespectful for a seated council member to do that, to another seated councilmember, and even more important, to a man of the cloth.”
This is not the first time Russell has approached the council about Youngs using the term “toxic,” nor would it be the first time that Youngs has had a complaint filed against him with the Texas Ethics Commission, if Lack goes through with filing a complaint.
Youngs was assessed a total of $500 in civil penalties by the Texas Ethics Commission for failure to file the proper campaign finance paperwork in time in connection with his 2017 campaign for the Copperas Cove city council. This was not his first run for public office, with Youngs having served on the city council prior to now..
According to the TEC documentation, Youngs was 147 days late filing his 30-day pre-election report, which should have been filed by October 10, 2017 but was filed on March 5, 2018, in which he disclosed $500 of political expenditures without accepting any political contributions.
Then, the eight-day pre-election report, which was due November 7, 2017, wasn’t filed until March 5, 2018, 127 days after it was due. In this report, he disclosed $700 in expenditures and did not accept any contributions from donors.
Presently, there is no code of conduct on record for Copperas Cove city council members.
In 2015, a draft for a code of conduct was brought to the council for discussion and direction, with some of the language in that code including statements such as “Council members shall refrain from abusive conduct, personal charges or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of other members of the City Council, boards, commissions, committees, staff or the public,” and also that public officials “conduct public deliberations and processes openly, unless legally confidential, in an atmosphere of respect and civility.”
Note: This article has been updated to reflect that the Code of Conduct draft was brought to the city counci in 2015, not 2017 as previously stated.
The date of that meeting was Oct. 5, 2015, with the original draft being dated Dec. 11, 2007.