Hanford Planning Commissioner Roger Snow sent a letter of resignation to the City Monday evening, following the resignation of commissioner Jason Kemp Van Ee earlier in the day over controversial Facebook posts.
In his letter, Snow said he was resigning for three reasons: because the City Council considered removing Kemp Van Ee over his social media activity; the Council's response to the commission voting in opposition to their direction; and because he missed a third meeting — he is only allowed to miss three.
“I am upset that my only recourse is to leave because I have learned so much from serving,” Snow wrote. “I will now take a more active role in my participation as a resident and will see you in the future.”
Snow said he felt the City Council made the commissioners feel unwanted if they voted in opposition to the direction of council members. He said he didn’t want to be a rubber stamp on projects, rather a commission that could openly vote on what members think is best for the city.
The City Attorney sent a letter to Kemp Van Ee in June, asking him to meet with staff to resolve issues involving his social media activity. The letter cited false information about City activities and posts which were “insensitive towards racial and religious groups.”
Then in July, the council asked an item be added to a future agenda to remove Kemp Van Ee from the Planning Commission over the social media activity.
In his resignation letter, Snow said planning commissioners should be allowed to post about social issues and criticize council members.
Kemp Van Ee said he felt he was brought up for removal based on conflicts with Councilwoman Kalish Morrow which occurred on Facebook. Snow wrote in his letter that commissioners should be able to agree or disagree with council members without retaliation.
“Commissioners should be able to speak out against City Council members and city staff,” Snow wrote. “Unless, there is no acceptance by the City Council to a difference in views. And no city council member alone should threaten a commissioner with removal.”
City Attorney Ty Mizote said the City Council does have the right to remove commission members without violating First Amendment rights if speech, including on social media, impacts the city’s ability to provide services.
Kemp Van Ee’s comments “towards racial and religious groups” made the City concerned as to whether he could carry out his duties without bias, Mizote said. Snow and Kemp Van Ee denied that there was any bias.
City Manager Mario Cifuentez said the City will ask council for direction to fill Snow and Kemp Van Ee’s seats on the commission at the next meeting, scheduled for July 20.