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Sullivan City censures councilman over Facebook post

The Sullivan City Council censured City Councilman Julian Peña on Monday for criticizing other members of the City Council on Facebook.

Mayor Alma Salinas said the Facebook post, which contained inaccurate information, had created animosity in the community.

“If you’re posting something, well, it needs to be the truth,” Salinas said.

During a meeting on Monday afternoon, the City Council approved a resolution to censure Julian Peña for the Facebook post.

Censure, a formal expression of disapproval, is largely ceremonial. It doesn’t affect Julian Peña’s position on the City Council or stop him from posting on Facebook in the future.

“As for me, I think it’s just a political move,” Julian Peña said.

Sullivan City Councilman Julian Peña. (File Photo.)

The post referenced a modest tax hike the City Council approved in September.

Salinas, City Councilman Rene “Cuate” Peña and City Councilman Ramon Moreno supported the decision to increase property taxes. Julian Peña and City Councilman Jaime Villarreal didn’t.

After the meeting, Julian Peña posted about the tax hike on Facebook.

“Gente de Sullivan perdimos yo y el commisionado Jaime Villarreal, por que no tuvimos de acuerdo de aumentar las taxas de las propiedades por casi 3 centavos por cada 100!” Julian Peña wrote, adding a sad emoji. “Que lastima.”

In the post, Julian Peña incorrectly stated that Sullivan City had increased the property tax rate by 3 cents.

The City Council had actually increased the tax rate by 1.62 cents — from 48.38 cents to 50 cents per $100 of taxable assessed valuation. Every cent adds $10 to the annual tax bill for a property valued at $100,000.

After he became aware the Facebook post contained incorrect information, Julian Peña followed up.

“Update! The tax rate that was adopted is $.50/$100,” Julian Peña wrote. “It was an increase of .0162 that is 1.6 pennies. Pero Como quiera no estoy deacuerdo!”

The post created animosity, Salinas said, and misinformed the community.

“You don’t make up things,” Salinas said. “If anything, you explain to people: ‘Hey, this is what’s happening.’”

Problems with Julian Peña’s behavior aren’t new, Salinas said, and the City Council is concerned that he could harm the city’s reputation.

“Last year, during the fall festival, he actually got drunk,” Salinas said. “And was being disrespectful to city staff.”

Julian Peña’s original Facebook post, which contained incorrect information about the property tax rate. (Screenshot.)

Julian Peña said he drank beer during the festival but wasn’t drunk and denied any wrongdoing.

“I took my beers,” Julian Peña said. “But I did not do nothing wrong.”

The City Council met privately — in what is called “executive session” — Monday to discuss whether or not to censure Julian Peña.

After discussing the matter for less than 15 minutes, the City Council approved a resolution to censure Julian Peña and issued him a “trespass notice.” Julian Peña didn’t attend the meeting.

Salinas said the trespass notice would prevent Julian Peña from representing the City Council at public events.

“He can go as a regular person, not as a public servant,” Salinas said. “That way he’s not seen as: ‘Oh, look at the way he’s behaving.’ He’s just another person.”

Julian Peña said he wasn’t concerned about the trespass notice.

“I’m just a public servant,” Julian Peña said. “So if they want to kick me out, be my guest. I’m not doing nothing wrong.”

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