The packages sent without a return address arrived at Groves City Hall, a television news station and a local newspaper Monday.
The contents may threaten the political career of 19-year-old Cross Coburn, by far the youngest city councilman in Groves. But for now, he insists he’s done nothing wrong.
Coburn told KFDM the shirtless photos of him and the conversations taken from a dating app between him and another user, along with the photos of a male sex organ are part of his “freedom of expression.”
“That is my personal life, and no one should know about it,” Coburn told the news station. “I’m sorry if anyone took it the wrong way, but it’s nothing more complex than this is my private life.”
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But Groves Mayor Brad Bailey told the Port Arthur News that public officials should be held to a different standard.
“I would like it to be known that the City is aware of this, the allegations of photos of private areas,” Bailey told the newspaper. “We have met and discussed it with our police department and HR department. It will be an issue. Personally I think it’s unbecoming of a public official, regardless of age.”
Those who follow Texas state politics were rocked in November by the release of nude photos of U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, 68, sent via text to women with whom he said he was in “consensual sexual relationships.” Soon after the photos were made public, Barton, a 33-year incumbent, announced he would not seek re-election in 2018.
But one thing that makes Coburn’s case different, aside from the scope of the scandal, is his sexuality. He told KFDM the sender may have had a grudge against him.
“I felt like I was being harassed; discriminated against because I’m a young gay man on City Council,” Coburn said.
For now, though, Coburn is still a councilor in Groves, a town of about 16,000 people in Texas’ most southeastern corner, though his photo no longer appeared along with his name as Ward 1 City Councilman on the City’s website Wednesday morning.
“There’s nothing illegal that happened; nothing to pursue at this time,” Bailey told KFDM, adding that there is the option of a recall election for the Ward 1 City Council position once Coburn has served six months in August.
If enough Groves voters petition for it, that could come in May.
Coburn was elected after the incumbent in the Ward 1 City Council race, Jim Rasa, withdrew from the election three days after Cross filed to run against him, according to the Port Arthur News. At the time of his election, Coburn was an 18-year-old theater student at Lamar State College Port Arthur.