In the face of public complaints over his appearance at a Leander protest last month, Cedar Park City Council Member Dorian Chavez says he isn’t backing down. Last week, Chavez appeared on a controversial alt-right InfoWars program to defend his position.
Meanwhile, a group of citizens who attended the June 27 regular meeting of the Cedar Park City Council have stepped up the pressure on Chavez, describing his actions in attending the protest and his words on social media and InfoWars since then as “unconscionable.”
One group of residents plans to protest against Chavez outside this week’s city council meeting and said they will protest at every council meeting until Chavez resigns. Another group said it is looking into how to bring a recall petition against Chavez if the city council doesn’t take formal action.
Cedar Park Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale confirmed Tuesday that he plans to speak with the city attorney over whether Chavez violated the council's Rules of Procedure with his response to public complaints. However, Van Arsdale said he is only looking into whether Chavez’ response to members of the public violated the rules, not his appearance at the protest.
“I do believe the council rules of decorum were breached and will be visiting with our city attorney about what remedies are available should a majority of the council agree (i.e., censure),” Cedar Park Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale told Cedar Park resident Jonathan Edwards in a July 3 email obtained by the Hill Country News. Edwards spoke out against Chavez and the other two council members who appeared at the Leander protest – Tim Kelly and Rodney Robinson – at Cedar Park’s June 27 council meeting.
Van Arsdale’s email goes on to say, “Apart from that, we have no legal authority to regulate other elected council members. I wish we did. Voters are the ultimate regulators of their elected representatives – thru (sic) communications, recall elections, and regular elections.”
Robinson has apologized for attending, saying he went because he was told drag queens would be reading to children – something he later learned was incorrect. He said he regrets giving the appearance he wasn’t representing all constituents.
Chavez and Kelly said they didn’t feel a need to apologize for expressing their views as private citizens, arguing they had not actively participated in the protest. Both said they don’t support protests or hatred against the LGBTQ community at large. Both said their issue was with a Drag Queen Story Time, not with LGBTQ people.
Chavez appeared on the InfoWars show “The War Room” on July 1 to defend his attendance at the protest, arguing he had been the target of “fake news” and claimed the majority of his critics were members of the Cedar Park chapter of Indivisible – a progressive political organization he called a “hate group.”
“I went there for one reason – to observe, pray, and it was for the children. (The event) is pretty inappropriate,” Chavez said.
“What’s next? Drag queens are adult entertainers. Are we going to have story time with a stripper? Or story time with a porn star? What are they going to do? ‘You can be like me and wear a g-string and some tassels?’ What’s next?” Chavez said.
Chavez said the majority of people support his views and the critics are only a minority. He said most people don’t voice their opinions out of fear of retaliation or being fired because they “might work or be employed in a place where you’re surrounded by, as Alex (Jones) says, the swamp people.”
Even before appearing on the show, Chavez received criticism for his social media post of a photograph he took with InfoWars host Owen Shroyer at the protest.
“I went on InfoWars and they let me talk about my views. They didn’t twist my words or anything,” Chavez said. “I’ll talk with anybody that will let me put that message out because I don’t think the event is appropriate.”
Cedar Park resident Jessica McCarthy also spoke out against Chavez at the June 27 meeting, and said she was “gobsmacked” Chavez decided to go on InfoWars and that it made her feel ill given the group's history of "harassing Sandy Hook parents."
McCarthy confirmed she is a member of Indivisible, but said she wasn’t speaking on behalf of the group in her public comments. She took issue with Chavez’s characterization, arguing he is using a national media platform to attack and insult the constituents he is supposed to represent.
“It’s moms, it’s local parents that block walk,” she said of Indivisible. “It’s ridiculous for (Chavez) to say it, especially given who he has chosen to associate with,” McCarthy said.
Van Arsdale emphasized he believes Chavez has a right to his personal views and stated he believes there is little the council can do because they must protect Chavez’s First Amendment rights. If Chavez is found to have violated the rules by his response to the public, the council would have to decide what action to take, including possible censure.
“It’s tough because it’s my job to keep focus on what’s best for Cedar Park... Divisiveness is never a good or attractive thing for a city,” Van Arsdale said. “We have plenty of things that need to be worked on in Cedar Park without wading into Leander or Round Rock.”
Chavez said he believes he acted appropriately, saying he emphasized he is a private citizen at the protests or in interviews. He also said he didn't violate the policy against attacking council members, but admitted he likely violated it with his attacks on Indivisible.
However, he argued the rules are actually informal guidelines, and that they potentially violate his First Amendment Rights. "I have a right to defend myself when they lie about me,” he said.
Chavez said the criticism has motivated him to be more proactive on the issue, and said he plans to introduce an agenda item at a future meeting to modify the portion of the rules in question to eliminate the potential conflict.