JASPER, TX (KTRE) - A decision by three council members is widening a deep rift in the City of Jasper. "This city is divided," said Japer city councilwoman Terrya Norsworthy. Their jobs are now on the line with the filing of a recall petition.
The city council's hiring of Police Chief Rodney Pearson is at issue. His resume includes 22 years as a state trooper. Pearson holds Associate's degree and is a graduate of the DPS Academy. Yet, some say he's not the most qualified person for the job.
David Benson, Pearson's attorney, tried to dispel what he calls shameless claims Wednesday afternoon at a public meeting. He said Pearson's social security number and other personal information were wrongfully obtained and shared with the public. "That's why we need to get depositions because I think the basis of a recall is that information is confidential, personal, should not have been released and was distorted," said Bernsen.
Jasper resident Vicky Stewart responded to Benson's claim. She said, "I obtained it under open record, and it belongs to the city of Jasper."
The bitter debate made its way into Wednesday's Jasper City Council meeting. Residents were given the chance to discuss a petition submitted to the city, calling for the removal of three council members. More than 500 signatures support claims that council members Willie Land, Tommy Adams, and Terrya Norsworthy played favorites in the process.
The council members named in the petition deny any wrongdoing. "I felt like justice was done, I felt I took all the right steps in selecting the chief of police," said Norsworthy. "We chose this chief the same identical way they've been choosing since 1927," said Jasper City Councilman, Willie Lee Land. "Why are we so wrong?"
The council members said they and Pearson are being targeted because of their race. "I do think it's race. I do think it's race. If you look at the signatures, you'll see it's race," said Norsworthy.
Hundreds had their chance to weigh-in at the city council meeting, but no further action will be taken by the city until the petition is verified.