Etowah commissioner says he will not resign after Facebook comments
At Monday night's city commission meeting, commissioner Roby Helm told people inside the city's community center that he would not resign from his post. This comes after an Etowah resident says Helm made sexually harassing comments toward her on Facebook.
Cat Pate says she's lived in Etowah for 8 years and owns a business. She stayed quiet during Monday night's meeting because she says she would get too emotional.
"I did not want him to see me cry," Pate said. "I am so sad, so sad because we are supposed to be in the 21st century and I feel like I'm living in the dark ages."
The commission barely spoke about the Facebook comments, after other Etowah residents asked for Helm to resign. Helm says his comments weren't meant to be sexual, and he apologized on a Facebook group.
"I do regret it," he said. "I'm a better person than that. I just wanna move on."
Pate says she wasn't able to see that apology because she is banned from the Facebook group. She says that is something Helm knew.
"If it was a genuine apology, he would’ve called me," she said. "It was not a genuine apology."
Mayor Gene Kelley told News Channel 9 he doesn't believe the comments were sexual, but he does think the commissioner owes Pate an apology, face-to-face.
Several weeks ago, the community met the Etowah City Commission with opposition about a proposed City Hall location in a modular unit near the Community Center. City officials tossed out that proposal, but after Cat Pate spoke out against it at the last commission meeting, she says Commissioner Roby Helm wrote inappropriate comments about her on Facebook.
Pate says she'll initiate a recall petition if he doesn't resign at Monday's meeting.
"I feel like he's just targeting me," said Cat Pate. "I feel like Roby made those comments about me with the sexual undertones to retaliate against me. And it's just wrong. Women should not have to put up with this. And it disheartens me that the other commissioners are allowing this to happen. I know they can't control what he does but why can't there be a conversation about the inappropriateness of his conduct?"
On a Facebook post about lost keys, Helm wrote,
"That sounds kinky with handcuff key and all... now there is a woman in Etowah that begs to have handcuffs put on her. She was at our city council meeting last night."
Roby Helm says his comments were taken out of context.
"It was not meant in anyway to have any sexual overtones," said Roby Helm. "None whatsoever."
At the last meeting, Pate spoke out against the proposed modular unit for City Hall, at one point saying, "You'll have to take me out in handcuffs before I let her say what she's saying. You can come over here and handcuff me right now."
Now Pate says she wants Helm, who was appointed in May to fill a vacancy, to resign. She says she'll initiate a recall petition if he doesn't do that at Monday night's City Commission meeting. Helm says he has no plans to resign.
"I just want to move on," said Helm. "I want to represent the citizens of Etowah. We have a lot of good things we're doing in Etowah and have a lot of things in works for the future."
Helm apologized, and posted a page long letter on social media.
"If they want to take on the responsibility to spend the tax payers money to do a petition based on somebody getting their feelings hurt on Facebook - well they can move forward with that," said Helm.
If Pate moves forward with a recall petition, it will need 281 signatures from registered voters in the Etowah city limits. Helm would have eight days to say whether or not he would resign.
If he doesn't, a recall vote would happen in the next general election in August. The election commission says the recall vote would cost $1,000 dollars or less.
The McMinn County District Attorney's office says Pate contacted them, and they will decide if any charges are warranted.
This is a developing story. Depend on us to keep you updated.