Friday, June 22, 2018
Editorials

Mayor should end impeachment with resignation

Steve Van Gorden's selfish behavior knows no end.

The Zephyrhills mayor now says he regrets resigning his position as high school principal amid a school district investigation of sexual harassment allegations against him. Likewise, he remains in elected public office and the city faces the expense and embarrassment of an impeachment hearing.

Monday evening, Zephyrhills City Council voted 4-1 to begin the process of removing Van Gorden from office. He should save everyone the trouble and resign as mayor, a largely ceremonial post that includes no voting authority on Council, but has a high profile as public relations envoy.

Van Gorden is putting his self interests before the city's best interests and his contrition from earlier this month has turned to an obstinate denial. He says the school district investigation failed to include his own statements and accounts from other witnesses.

It's a dubious claim that contradicts his own prior commentary. Van Gorden previously said he made mistakes, let his personal life cloud his judgment, and would not quibble with the investigative findings. He also has said he has sought counseling and sensitivity training in the aftermath of his school resignation.

Some sensitivity. By declining to leave his city position, Van Gorden is making the Council move ahead with a full-blown quasi-judicial hearing that will require the city to absorb the expense of retaining a lawyer to act as prosecutor. Council will sit in judgment while being advised by City Attorney Joseph Poblick. It means potential subpoenas and required public testimony from the women who brought their concerns to the school district. In other words, their humiliation at the hands of Van Gorden is not yet complete.

How will he defend himself? That there was a conspiracy of liars running amok at Zephyrhills High School who misunderstood and/or misinterpreted his reported comments on their breast size, availability for private time and willingness to apply lotion to his sexual organ? That he didn't mean to hit the send button when he fired off a late-night text to a female subordinate? That the vulgar synonym for prostitute he used to describe the message recipient was just a typographical error?

The statements contained in the school district investigation are overwhelming. Van Gorden bullied women with inappropriate remarks and crude behavior that created a hostile work environment. Confronted with the evidence, he chose to resign as high school principal. It's a glimmer of good judgment that he needs to repeat.

If Van Gorden truly wants to serve the residents of Zephyrhills, he will hand in his resignation as mayor and avoid further embarrassment for City Hall.

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