Group Delivers Petition to City Hall in Effort to Oust Controversial Councilman

Seven weeks after Plano City Councilman Tom Harrison shared a Facebook post about a ban on Islam in American schools, a group of volunteers delivered a petition to demand a recall election.

Ann Bacchus with the group, Our Plano, One Plano said volunteers gathered 4,225 signatures, well over the 2,791 that would be required to trigger a recall election for Harrison.

The city secretary still has to verify the signatures and has five days to report to city council.

“We reject this kind of bigotry, discrimination and intolerance. Plano is excellent. And it is excellent because of all of you, because of the diversity, not because of demagoguery,” said Bacchus after delivering the petition on Wednesday afternoon.

Our Plano, One Plano said it formed in response to Harrison’s refusal to step down amid a controversial Facebook share on his page.

In February, Harrison’s Facebook page shared a short video, featuring girls in hijabs with the words “Share if you think Trump should ban Islam in American schools.” The video was from a Facebook group called "Joined Hands Across America for Trump." The video doesn't specify what is meant by banning Islam from schools.

Harrison later deleted the post the next day and apologized. Plano’s Republican Mayor Harry LaRosiliere called for Harrison to step down. Previous shares, likes and tags on Harrison’s page were called into question as the city council voted to censure Harrison during a special city council meeting on February 18th.

Harrison maintained he would not step down and insisted he was not a bigot.

"I am not xenophobic, I am not a bigot, I am not a racist," Harrison said during meeting.

If the city secretary validates the signatures and the city attorney agrees the petition is valid, the city council would have to order a recall election. According to the city, the earliest that could happen is in November, which is near the end of Harrison’s term. It expires in May of 2019. He was elected to a four year term in 2015.

“This is not an issue of just well, it’d be great to have somebody out a few months earlier,” said Michael Thomas of Our Plano, One Plano. “This is a statement that the people of this city won’t stand for leadership not representing the people of the city and it absolutely matters.”

Harrison did not respond to requests for an interview from NBC 5 on Wednesday.

Allan Samara, with a community group called Smart Plano Future and a Harrison supporter, was at the Plano Municipal Center on Wednesday on behalf of Harrison.

“The councilman has apologized and he's apologized very profoundly and robustly,” said Samara. “I hope they read his statement, I hope they paid attention.”

Samara said Harrison would challenge a recall election “at every step”.

Samara provided a written statement from Harrison on Wednesday.

It says in part, “I have issued an apology for the unexpected response to my sharing a post on a private Facebook page. In a previous conversation an individual asked about the candy cane issue at PISD, and a post appeared on the page questioning if President Trump should ban Islam from Public Schools (sic). It was not intended to support the idea, just another viewpoint of religion in public schools.” 

The statement went on to read, “Any one (sic) that knows me will attest to me not being ‘anti’ anything. I am neither a ‘racist’ nor a ‘bigot’.”

Samara told NBC 5, Harrison is also looking into if he actually shared the post or if it appeared on his timeline some other way. Samara couldn’t offer details on how the post would have been shared by Harrison’s account. He did not allege hacking.

Our Plano, One Plano members who were asked about the most recent explanation from Harrison questioned its authenticity.

Former council member David Smith said, “We’re not talking about one post we’re talking about many posts.”

After counting the petition pages and providing a receipt to Our Plano, One Plano, the city secretary has five days to verify signatures and report to the city council.

A report is expected at Monday night’s regularly scheduled city council meeting. If the required signatures are verified, the council would be required to order a recall election at the next available election.

The city says the petitioners missed a deadline for the May election and a recall could be asked of voters in the November general election.

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