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Mayor resigns on Facebook — after 37 days in office

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 19/01/2017 Kirsten Crow and Matt Woolbright

In this file photo, American and Texas state flags fly on the dome of the Texas State Capitol building in Austin. © CrackerClips In this file photo, American and Texas state flags fly on the dome of the Texas State Capitol building in Austin. A Texas mayor in office for 37 days resigned Wednesday via Facebook after social-media posts and other outbursts that expressed ire at fellow council members, city staffers and the media.

Dan McQueen, 57, a Navy veteran but political newcomer who won 55%-45% over incumbent Mayor Nelda Martinez in the November election, didn't weather his first crisis in office well: a leak from a chemical plant tank that contaminated the Gulf Coast city's water supply two days after he was sworn in Dec. 13. In council meetings, he was heavy handed with council members and disrespectful of their efforts to meet their obligation to keep constituents informed.

And his frustrations built as local media tried to investigate his background, largely unknown because his victory over Martinez, who had been in office since 2012 and had defeated him for a two-year term in 2014, was a surprise.

Right before Christmas, McQueen began refusing to answer questions from the media in this city of almost 325,000 residents, instead posting broadsides such as the following on Facebook:

"POLITICS — Do I Sell NEWS for Bad Media or Do I FIX the City issues? ... It will STOP when MONEY STOPS paying for the BAD, DESTRUCTIVE media. ... I will not work for the PRESS."

On McQueen’s campaign website, he wrote that he earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering but did not state the institution where he earned the degree.

The Caller-Times confirmed that he earned a bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, a master’s degree in computer information systems at Boston University and worked at Sikorsky in Corpus Christi as a senior electrical engineer from October 2007 to July 8 when he quit. The page on McQueen's campaign website that included the statement about his earning an engineering degree now has been taken down.

"In the past 35 Days, I have been attacked by council as being sexist, racist and continue to fight attacks from Media and the public," he wrote Monday morning on Facebook before his page was deactivated at about 4 p.m. CT. "I just don't see the VALUE in this fight for 600 more. I had so much HOPE for our city."

He reactivated his page Tuesday and warned of trolls watching. Both his Facebook and Twitter accounts appeared to be deactivated when checked Wednesday evening.

At a Republican gathering of more than 100 constituents Monday night, he said he would be holding back on his comments because media were present. When asked whether Corpus Christi would ever have a safe, walkable downtown like Dallas, McQueen said the press was inhibiting progress — and that city staff was inadequate to get the job done.

"Can you get the media to quit beating me up and let me work harder at that very thing?" McQueen said. "I'm trying as fast as I can. But like I said, I got media on my ass. I've got the city staff that just isn't there for me yet."

Previously, he had refused to deliver a Feb. 1 State of the City address to the chamber of commerce, causing the group to cancel its annual event. Only later did he tell chamber officials that his daughter's Hawaii wedding was planned on the date it was scheduled.

While McQueen posted his resignation Wednesday afternoon on Facebook — "Consider this my resignation. I resign immediately. ... I step down from my position as Mayor." — he sent a similar message to City Secretary Rebecca Huerta via email, making his resignation official.

City Councilwoman Carolyn Vaughn, current mayor pro tem, said she appreciated McQueen's decision to resign.

"You can’t come back from something like that when you criticize the staff, the media and the city," she said. "You can’t lead like that. I know I wasn’t going to follow."

Because more than a year remains in McQueen's term, a special election will likely fill the position. At least one former councilman already has said he will run for the position during a special election.

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