Monroe councilman censured for comments, actions

Monroe Councilman Tom Callahan, center box, shows a pair of baby pacifiers to fellow council members at the Aug. 25 virtual Monroe City Council meeting. Callahan, a retired businessman, said he would give pacifiers to people he determined to be "crybabies." He also displayed two larger pacifiers to Council members Christina McElfresh and Todd Hickman. Monroe City Council censured him for his remarks and antics. FILE PHOTO

For the past few months, dozens of Monroe residents have complained to City Council about remarks and actions they felt were inappropriate at two council meetings.

Councilman Tom Callahan said on July 14 that the government shouldn’t mandate mask-wearing, and that he hadn’t yet worn a mask. On Aug. 25, he showed baby pacifiers during a virtual meeting to complaining residents and Councilmembers Todd Hickman and Christina McElfresh, whom Callahan called “crybabies.”

ExploreMonroe councilman shows pacifiers to complaining citizens after mask comments

One resident, Kelly Clark, said council needed to show the community that this behavior was unacceptable, adding that the inaction made residents feel “marginalized.” She also questioned Callahan about why he ran for office and said he “still had a chance to turn this around.”

Clark suggested censuring Callahan to call out offensive and inappropriate conduct.

A censure is an official rebuke, and a majority of council agreed that Callahan’s behavior was out of line. Similar to a reprimand, a censure does not remove a council member from their office and allows participation and voting on city issues.

ExploreMonroe councilman criticized for comments about masks

Council voted 4-0 with two abstentions for the censure. Callahan and Councilwoman Anna Hale abstained from the vote, while Councilman Robert Routson was not at Tuesday’s meeting.

It was the first time in recent memory that a local government in the area has formally censured a council member. It was also a first for Monroe council, according to officials.

At a previous meeting, it was determined that Callahan’s comments and behavior did not rise to the charter requirements to remove a council member. Callahan did not return a text, email or phone call from the Journal-News seeking a response to the censure.

Resident Leslie King said she was concerned with Callahan’s comments in July and questioned his “suitability” to serve on council.

ExploreMonroe rejects proposal to require masks in the city

During a spirited discussion about mandating local businesses to enforce people wearing masks in July, Callahan said, “(I) wouldn’t vote for that for nothing because I don’t think it is our business to be telling these people to be wearing masks. It’s not up to the government to tell the residents. I think what they should be doing if they feel threatened when they go into Kroger or if they don’t feel like they got social distancing then they should do it on their own.

"Let them make the decision on what they want to do. I’ve not wore a mask yet and I’ve never felt threatened to walk into any store or anywhere and I just disagree with telling people to wear a mask. Next thing you do, you’d be wearing scarves around your head.”

However, there was one resident who was watching the meeting on social media who came to the council meeting to make some comments. Bobbie Drew said the previous residents who spoke to council did not represent her.

While she agreed Callahan said some things out of line, “we need to move on from the Callahan issue and move forward.”

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