Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

Orange councilors in Facebook brouhaha

Four members of the Orange City Council have gotten into a Facebook disagreement that has their fans in a tizzy. One man even compared Councilor Paul Burch to Jesus in the way that people talked about him.

The comments were triggered by a letter Councilor Terri Salter wrote to the editor of a weekly mailed subscription newspaper. Salter commented about the close friendships on the council and compared them to nepotism.

Mayor Larry Spears Jr. posted a professional photograph made of him and Burch as a way to show solidarity.

Councilor Caroline Hennigan commented on Burch's page "Paul Burch, we would hard pressed (sic) to find anyone that is not your friend or doesn't want to be your friend. The interpersonal relationships you have developed highlight your innate talent of working with people, as does your successful business of nearly 40 years. No matter how well we do, there will always be an enemy. Keep pressing forward. I will continue to work with you, council, and the mayor to keep Orange moving forward!!"

Councilors Brad Childs and Mary McKenna have stayed out of Facebook comments in the brouhaha. New Councilor Matt Chandler, who took office last week, has refrained except for a few innoculous words on one of Burch's posts concerning the subject.

Before Salter's letter to the editor was published online, on Facebook, or in traditional print, Burch wrote on his Facebook page "I was contacted today by a local newspaper about an article coming out about ME, after he read the articles about me/us to me, he asked for my response, I said NO RESPONSE,' he said I figured so!!!!Y'all anyone can say things about me/us that doesn't make them true, jealous people are everywhere and constantly seek to interrupt peoples lives daily IF ITS ALLOWED,, I choose not to allow it in my life (sic) (closing with two smiley face emojis) !!!"

He had 297 Facebook friends either like, love, or give care to that post. In addition, 143 people commented. A number of people were concerned that a newspaper had done a "hit" piece about Burch without even talking to him.

Richard Allan wrote "Wayment...didn't they talk about Jesus too...Paul you should feel special that you are always on someone's mind...if you have any haters you don't want, send them my way...it makes me feel so special to be on someone's mind all the time...sadly you are a Super Star and don't even know it..." (sic)

Burch's reply to Allan's Jesus comment was ",,,Yes they did and he was PERFECT NO FLAWS,,I get what you are saying my brother,,," (sic)

Salter said in the letter that she wanted to explain a report on KOGT.com on why she didn't support Burch to be reappointed as mayor pro tem. "Pro tem" is Latin "for temporary" and refers to a person who is temporarily holding a position.

KOGT.com reporting on the vote, was a rare example of any local media directly covering a city council meeting in recent months.

In professional journalism, Salter's writings are a "letter to the editor," a personal opinion from an identified person that does not libel another person. The newspaper made the professional ethical move to allow Burch to write a reply.

Burch is a hair stylist and longtime owner of a salon and accessories store in Northway Shopping Center. Through the decades, he has hundreds of loyal clients, women and men. Burch has also been a successful house-flipper, buying houses, remodeling them, and then selling them.

Burch also works in an estate sale business with Caroline Hennigan and her husband, Mike. The estate sale company, owned by a local businesswoman, mostly organizes and sells items of deceased Baby Boomers, or those downsizing. The goods are often things like crystal, china, "collectibles" and other items their heirs do not want.

Mike Hennigan holds a position on the city's Planning and Zoning Commission. Members of the commission are appointed by the city council from citizen applicants.

Mike Hennigan applied recently to fill an unexpired term on the city's Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, which awards, with final council approval, millions of dollars of development grants. City rules allow citizens to serve on more than one appointed city board. The vote on the position was last week, but the council appointed Margaret Adams to the spot.

Burch's husband Raul has also worked in the estate sales. The Hennigans and Burches, according to their Facebook posts, often socialize together. The Burches also visit the Hennigans at their beach house.

The Burches are popular socially and they have served as king and king of Orange Mardi Gras. Councilor Burch is involved in several non-profit groups and has been president of the Orange Community Players working in their efforts to get a new theater.

Councilor Hennigan, a LC-M educator, also is active with the Orange Community Players.

Mayor Spears, who has an accomplished voice, has sung before for an OCP fundraiser. Burch performs in many OCP fundraising musicals.

"Nepotism, whether involving family or close friends, can compromise the integrity of decision-making processes within boards and organizations. While friendship can be akin to family, it should not impede the fair and impartial execution of one's duties," Salter's letter read.

She posted the letter to her three Facebook pages and "tagged" nearly 100 people, meaning the letter then appeared on their Facebook pages.

"Unfortunately, I have observed instances of nepotism and unprofessional behavior that I cannot condone. As an elected representative, I am accountable to the constituents of District 3. It is my duty to ensure transparency and fairness in governance.

"Regrettable, attempts to address concerns directly with the Mayor Larry Spears Jr. and Mayor Pro Tem Paul Burch have been met with silence. Despite numerous calls, texts, and emails, my attempts to communicate have been ignored," Salter wrote.

Salter backed a candidate last year who ran against Burch for city council.

The Burches live in the Old Orange Historic District and have hosted the traditional Toy Coffee Christmas home tour to benefit the Salvation Army and sponsored by the Service League of Orange. The couple has had three tours in recent years in two different houses. Their current house is in the Old Orange Historic District and across the street from the house they owned a decade ago.

The city passed ordinances in the 1990s creating the historic district and the district has rules for any exterior changes in the neighborhood that dates back to the mid-1800s. Demolitions and exterior changes are to be approved by a five-member board appointed by council.

Some people in the neighborhood were upset that a sitting member of the group was not reappointed but was replaced by a former next door neighbor to Councilor Burch. That led to a dispute in the neighborhood with another resident running against Burch unsuccessfully.

Mayor Spears last week took the oath for his last three-year term in the position because of term limits. Facebook comments have accused Salter and Burch as being interested in running for mayor.


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