Ozark Mayor Mark Blankenship remains unfazed by a recent censure resolution adopted against him by the Ozark City Council after he received criticism for getting the local library to relocate several sexually explicit books.
The Ozark City Council voted Tuesday to censure Blankenship after residents complained about his posts on social media and interactions.
Council president Brenda Simechak and members Les Perault and Winston Jackson voted to censure, and members Stanley Enfinger and Leah Harlow voted against it.
The censure vote came as the result of social media exchanges between Blankenship and residents who expressed displeasure at his position on the library books. In one of those exchanges, Blankenship reportedly posted, "The majority of people don't want to see this in our library. 100 % of my city council will agree. I hate to see the library lose funding over this mess." Other texts and social media posts were presented to the council between Blankenship and residents.
Blankenship says the three who voted to censure did so to appease the few residents who have regularly caused trouble for city officials since the library debacle began. He also claimed the screenshots shared to condemn him were not given in context and did not show the full story of what he was responding to or the people he
"What they presented was only half the story," Blankenship said. "You can go to social media and you can print out a screenshot about anything. The three city council members never once came to my office and sat down and talked to me and looked at what I was responding to. What I was responding to was cards, letters, emails, all this kind of stuff I was receiving that was absolutely false information, attacks on me personally, and the stuff is simply not true."
"Some of those three councilmembers knew exactly what I was doing, but they were just trying to appease this bunch, thinking they were going to go away. And they're not going to go away. They're going to continue to be a thorn in the side of my city department heads and others."
The council stated that the reason for the censure was not to get Blankenship to change his opinions but rather to act with professionalism, saying the mayor was guilty of "inappropriate and unprofessional behavior unbecoming the elected leader of our fair city."
One aspect of the censure resolution was a social media exchange that Blankenship printed on city letterhead, which detailed a conversation with a local, whom Blankenship accused of causing a ruckus at city meetings. According to Blankenship, members of the "small" group called "We the People of Dale County" have been the most vocal and pedantic voices at public meetings.
"One thing the council got upset about was I provided them a conversation this guy had with one of the city employee's daughter. And he used some of the worst language I've ever seen. Some words I've never used in my life. I printed that out for them. This guy is doing this on social media, and then you want to censure me because I stand up for myself and city employees."
Ultimately, Blankenship says the censure was an attempt to assuage the small, vocal group of residents opposed to his stance on the library books.
"Of course, the censure means nothing. I told them that. I said, 'I'm going to continue to do what I do.' This is just one of those things that I took a strong stand on, and 99% of the people in the city of Ozark agree with my position on this. It's not by any means a large group that's opposing me."
He continued, "All this does is serve as a form of embarrassment. It means nothing. Doesn't change a thing. It's just something this group wanted to do, and [the council] did it to pacify them. It's worthless."
Despite social media gloating over the censure, Blankenship says he's "pretty much over the whole thing" and will continue as he has, working to "progress the city of Ozark."
Blankenship told 1819 News he was made aware of the books after residents sent him excerpts from the books. Blankenship's opponents claim his issue is with the books' touching on LGBTQ+ issues. A claim Blankenship denies outright, saying it's the books' sexualized content that compelled him to push for their relocation.
"As I got more complaints and they started sending me the content of these books, it had nothing to do with the gay and lesbian world; it was the language in the books," Blankenship said.
"That's what blew it all up and made a big production out of it. This hate group that has come out of this, now they want to be in control and run the whole city of Ozark. Now they turn up to every city council meeting. And they're screaming and hollering 'censure' because they don't like my approach to getting these books removed. And obviously, I was right. They shut down the library down for a week and rearranged and put these books in age-appropriate section."
Blankenship also claims he fully supports the library and said he is playing a significant role in relocating the library to a new location.
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