WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — A Wichita Falls City Councilor with a reputation for being unconventional and controversial was once again the subject of contention during Tuesday’s regular session meeting.
During a lengthy public comment period regarding the current Downtown Farmer’s Market controversy, Wichita Falls City Councilor for District 5 Steve Jackson‘s microphone was cut off as he attempted to speak from the public podium, not his seat on the council.
The Wichita Falls City Council met on Tuesday, August 2, 2022, in a regular session that began at 8:30 a.m. with one councilor noticeably absent from his seat.
Observers said Jackson was not seated with the rest of the council during the meeting at all, and instead had been sitting with the audience for the entirety of the meeting before he went up to the microphone after other citizens had finished their comments, stating he was a “concerned citizen”.
Jackson was apparently trying to make a comment on proposed city employee raises despite the fact that the topic was not on the meeting’s agenda.
Stephen Santellana, Mayor of Wichita Falls, and Kinley Hegglund, Wichita Falls City Attorney, interrupted Jackson as he began to speak, saying he was not allowed to discuss that item as a city councilor, and doing so was illegal.
“This is a violation of open meetings law, sir,” Hegglund said.
Jackson’s microphone was cut off, however, he continued to speak as city officials again attempted to restore order to the meeting.
“Councilor, I’m just asking for a little bit of professionalism,” Mayor Santellana said.
Hegglund then clarified that it is a violation of Texas law for a member of a city council to discuss an item that is not on the agenda. Despite his absence from the diocese and making comments as a “concerned citizen”, Jackson still holds a seat on the council.
Jackson continued to attempt to speak over councilmembers for several more minutes until Hegglund urged him to stop and Mayor Santellana asked him to take a seat.
“No, I don’t have to sit down,” Jackson said in response. “I’m a citizen of Wichita Falls!”
As Jackson began to walk away from the podium to return to the audience, Mayor Santellana said if he didn’t want to abide by the rules of decorum, he’d be asked to take a seat, and continued refusal to maintain order would result in the mayor having him removed from the meeting.
“Then have me removed,” Jackson said, then returned to his seat.
Hegglund then pointed out that the raises Jackson attempted to discuss during Tuesday’s meeting are in fact on an upcoming agenda.
“It’s on the agenda for the next council meeting,” Hegglund said. “Legally that’s when a city councilor needs to discuss it. to do so today with it not being on the agenda does violate open meetings law.”
“So, in seven days, if Councilor Jackson, I guess if he’s still our councilor, wishes to sit up here at the diocese,” Santella said, “he has the opportunity to speak at that time, just not at this time, by law.”
This isn’t the first time Jackson has been the root of a controversial moment for the Wichita Falls City Council. In October 2021, Jackson was the center of controversy during tense discussions about the Circle Trail.
Jackson left that meeting prior to adjournment following several instances of raising his voice, swearing, and accusing other councilors of unethical business dealings.
“Steve Jackson was cursing at a fellow councilmember for not bringing a motion to something we can’t even bring a motion to,” Santellana said during that meeting. “Then he went ahead and cursed in public again, told another councilmember to shut up, he interrupted Darron [Leiker, Wichita Falls City Manager} and then he screamed at a citizen.”