Editor’s note: This article contains adult language.
Two Van Alstyne residents expressed concerns about the conduct of recently appointed Economic Development Corporation board member David Hips during this week’s City Council meeting.
Van Alstyne residents Brenda McDonald, who is president of the Van Alstyne Chamber of Commerce, and Sue-Lynn Voigt addressed the council about a comment Hips made on Facebook, which the women said was offensive.
McDonald confirmed that the comment that raised their concern was a Facebook response that Hips made to Kimberly Uselton, who conducts business in Van Alstyne, on Oct. 3.
A week ago, Uselton expressed an opinion in the Van Alstyne Area Facebook group about the Shared Use Path, stating that it would have cost $17,000 of the city’s money.
In response, Hips stated the cost for the path would have been over $1 million. Hips then appears to have gotten the impression Uselton had deleted his replies.
“Well, it just goes to show what kind of b**** you really are,” Hips wrote on Uselton’s private Facebook page with the use of asterisks. “I made 2 comments on your post with factual information that you choose to ignore.”
When reached for comment, Hips stated that he has not posted or stated any racial comments or derogatory comments against women, citing Black Lives Matter as the only group that he has publicly expressed negativity about.
However, the word choice Hips used when addressing Uselton is tied to gender. The term “bitch” is defined by Merriam-Webster as meaning, “a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman — sometimes used as a generalized term of abuse.”
“I thought that was sad when I saw it on Facebook,” McDonald said at the council meeting. “It was in extremely bad taste. It’s a no-win situation, and it’s hurting our town.”
When asked if he considered himself a good representation of the EDC Board and the city of Van Alstyne, Hips declined to respond and ended the conversation.
In a letter addressed to the council, Hips stated that he could not attend the council meeting to defend himself because he was out of town for business.
“The facts about the path did not fit the narrative of the miss information (sic) provided by the writer, so they were deleted,” Hips wrote. “I responded in anger and I regret that. But, no, I will not apologize. I made the statements as a private citizen and on a ‘public’ forum.”
Hips wrote that he loves Van Alstyne and plans to retire in the community.
“My comments had nothing to do with the EDC and in no manner does my comment warrant the issue coming before the City Council,” Hips wrote. “It was a comment made by a private citizen.”
The original posts between Hips and Uselton were still online as of Wednesday afternoon on the private Van Alstyne Area Facebook group, which has close to 900 members.
At the council meeting, both McDonald and Voigt requested that the council remove Hips from the EDC board.
“If he cannot control his language and such within the EDC, think what he would do when talking with new prospective business owners,” Voigt said.
EDC President Kaaren Teuber said the situation was “a bunch of nothing” in regards to the potential for Hips to be removed from the board due his comment to Uselton.
“This was a private individual talking to another private citizen. (It has) nothing at all to do with EDC business — nothing related to the EDC,” Teuber said.
City Attorney Julie Fort said the appointment and removal of an EDC board member falls within the City Council’s purview. Though she could not discuss the conversation that occurred in executive session on Oct. 10, Fort said that, after the meeting, the consensus was, “the council finds the comments to be unacceptable.”
The city has called a special council meeting for Oct. 23 to consider a policy that would establish expectations for all board members, Fort said.