When a group of teenage girls waited outside of a popular West University Place cookie shop, they didn’t expect to be berated by a councilwoman for the clothes they chose to wear.

West U Councilwoman Kellye Burke also probably didn’t expect the level of backlash she received, which has since resulted in her “fleeing” her home, being the subject of talks of a recall, and being charged with disorderly conduct.

The controversy took place at West U’s Tiny’s Milk and Cookies, where Burke verbally attacked a group of minors – all because one of the girls was wearing a pro-Donald Trump t-shirt.

Burke, who made it clear she took issue with the girl’s choice of clothing, launched into a vulgar, profane-filled rant that included her making sexually suggestive comments and erratically, repeatedly screaming “MAGA,” while proceeding to snap pictures of the girls. The event has since made national news.

After the girls’ parents contacted the police, West U Police Department referred the case to the Harris County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office, which has since charged Burke with disorderly conduct, a Class C Misdemeanor carrying a $500 fine. But, that was just the beginning.

As the news spread like wildfire, the councilmember, through her attorney, released a disingenuous apology saying that she “did not commit any type of crime,” and that she apologizes on behalf of herself and of “the President of the United States and all the media outlets who repeated his words both electronically and in print.”

City Manager Chris Peifer said that four residents have inquired about options to remove Burke from office and City Secretary Thelma Gilliam supported that statement saying in an email to Texas Scorecard, “I am not aware of any legitimate petitions in circulation, but there have been inquiries.”

A proper recall petition would require getting physical signatures from 15 percent of West U’s electorate, or just over 1,600. A Change.org petition calling for her removal has been active for about 15 hours and currently has 345 signatures.

Not only is Burke dodging calls for a recall, she’s now dodging her duties as an elected official.

At the first council meeting since the incident, Burke was a no-show. Her attorney, Christopher Downey, read a prepared statement during the public comment portion saying that she had been advised against attending the council meeting that night and had received such negative backlash that she was forced to “flee her home.” She reasserted, through her attorney, that she has no intention of resigning her post, though.

“Pundits, opponents, and their media outlets have portrayed me as an unremorseful, callous individual who did not apologize or take responsibility,” read Burke’s statement. “I believe that actions speak louder than words. I hope that my community will recognize the consistent positive contributions I have made, rather than focus exclusively on the one regrettable incident that has been mischaracterized, exaggerated and exploited.”

During the public testimony, a West U resident who admittedly voted for Burke said, “At the end of the day we elect our officials because we trust your judgement, we think you’re going to be accountable for your actions, and that you’re going to listen to your constituents. She has exhibited beyond reproach any sort of horrible judgment I have seen. I don’t want to see a community that is tolerant of intolerance, and that’s happened that day.”

West U Mayor Susan Sample denounced Burke’s comments, but said there was no action provided through the city’s charter that would allow the council to remove Burke. Sample also said that she contacted Burke numerous times to find out her intentions regarding staying in office, but has not received a reply.

Burke was elected to West U City Council in 2017 and also served as president of the Texas arm of Moms Demand Action, where she lobbied the state legislature for gun control.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.