Members of a Fort Worth anti-discrimination commission voted unanimously Monday to recommend that one of their peers, who is accused of sharing derogatory and racist posts on his Facebook page, should be fired by the city council.
Mike Steele, who has been a member of the Human Relations Commission since 2015, frequently shared content attacking transgender people, Muslims and immigrants and seemingly called for civil war.
The Human Relations Commission members voted to recommend Steele be removed from his position at a meeting Monday night. Steele did not attend the meeting and did not immediately respond to requests to comment.
The Fort Worth City Council will vote on whether or not to remove Steele when they reconvene in August. Five council members have said on Twitter they will vote to remove him.
On July 2, TCU professor Emily Farris posted screenshots of some of Mike Steele’s Facebook posts on Twitter, saying they were “racist, sexist, transphobic, and anti-immigrant.” The next day, Mayor Betsy Price called for Steele to resign.
On Monday, Farris and three other Fort Worth residents addressed the commission and asked members to remove Steele.
After the vote, Farris said she was glad of the commission’s decision, but she was still concerned that the city council was not aware of Steele’s posts.
“The bigger concern is how little the city council is paying attention to the Human Relations Commission,” Farris said. “I’d like to see the council take a closer look at what are the ways that they can empower the Human Relations Commissions and make sure the right people are on these boards and commissions in the future.”
A single formal complaint was made regarding Steele in 2017, but interviews with current and past Human Relations Commission members and Fort Worth residents show Steele’s social media behavior was well known for years.
Assistant City Manager Valerie Washington said in light of Steele’s Facebook posts, city staff is reviewing its social media policy for city officials. She said they are considering periodic checks of officials’ social media, similar to random audits.
Washington also said she expects the council will vote to remove Steele due to the mayor and council members’ comments on “the inappropriateness of a citizen serving on that board that does not understand the mission or will go against that mission.”
“When we have board and commission members, they are representing the district they are serving, they are not free agents,” she said. “This is not a time for personal interests and personal vetting — we are not interested in those type of people being on our boards.”
Steele previously told the Star-Telegram in an email that he would not resign from the post. His current term ends in October.
“As a proud father of a LGBT son, I vehemently reject the defamatory comments posted about me on social and local media,” he said in the email. “Some may not agree with my message, but I followed the policies and procedures set forth by the City. I do not intend to resign. I have fought foreign enemies, and I will fight domestic social media mobs. “
Twenty minutes before the meeting began, Steele sent a statement to several media outlets saying five members of the Fort Worth City Council had violated the open meetings act by tweeting they would vote to remove him. He said the letter served as his official criminal complaint against the council members.
The Human Relations Commission, according to the city website, works with city officials to eliminate prejudice and discrimination and encourages communication between all groups in the community.