Monroe City Council censures mayor, revokes right to issue proclamations

MONROE, N.C. — There was some fiery debate at a local city council meeting Tuesday night over a proclamation from the mayor honoring the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Now, Mayor Robert Burns is in hot water and the City of Monroe is changing how it makes similar moves in the future.

The controversy began several weeks ago when Mayor Burns issued a proclamation on June 24 commemorating the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. There was backlash from some residents on social media and support from others.

Some of those supporters could be heard in the video of Tuesday’s council meeting, which got heated when several councilors motioned to strip some powers from the mayor’s office -- including his ability to form committees.

“So why is that not an item on the agenda?” asked Mayor Pro Tem David Dotson.

“Why does it need to be an item on the agenda?” responded Councilmember Julie Thompson.

“Because the public has a right to know what you’re here to talk about,” Dotson replied.

Thompson then attempted to explain the procedure, finishing her comments with “I really don’t appreciate the interrogation.”

Burns told Channel 9′s Evan Donovan he knew the proclamation would alienate some of Monroe’s residents.

“I unapologetically am pro-life: from the womb to the tomb, as we say,” he said.

Burns claims he cleared the proclamation through the city’s attorneys -- as he’d done previously -- and even removed some language, including Bible verses. Burns said proclamations do not represent the city’s view, just his.

“It’s never represented the entire city, it’s never,” he said. “How does putting out a proclamation about someone’s birthday represent an entire city? Right? And so I am representing a group of people who voted for me.”

Some people who did not vote for Burns have posted their opposition on social media. One trans woman, Kara Murphy, said Burns is the mayor and should represent everyone in Monroe.

“It’s sucking up all the oxygen out of the room,” she said. “People want to be able to go to their city council meeting and hear about development, or land use, or law enforcement, or education, or anything else that they might actually be involved in that isn’t, you know, these big culture war issues.”

Burns understands the criticism -- but said that’s not him.

“They believe that in city government, it should be more neutral. And I personally have no idea how to be neutral. And that is my stance on everything,” he said.

Council voted to censure Burns, which North Carolina law describes as an “official condemnation for inappropriate or illegal actions committed by a public official while holding a position of trust.”

Council also voted to remove the ability of the mayor’s office to form committees or issue proclamations without the approval of council.

After the vote, Mayor Burns posted on Facebook that he regrets nothing.

“A line in the sand has been drawn,” he said. “Unfortunately it had to be done this way. Now you all know... You are worth it Monroe. Our future is brighter than ever. We have a ton of work to do. Let’s go! I am #monroestrong.”

(WATCH BELOW: Supreme Court upholds access to widely used abortion pill)

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