Galesburg city council member accused of transphobic tweets
Galesburg city officials are investigating allegations that a council member’s social media account included homophobic and transphobic content.
Mayor Peter Schwartzman told TSPR the city was informed on Dec. 21 of activity on a council member’s Twitter that some found offensive.
The mayor referred the matter to legal counsel, who in turn provided a letter outlining legal judgment on the homophobic and transphobic nature of the content -- as well as options for the city, council, and mayor moving forward.
Schwartzman said he also asked the council member, “Do these posts/tweets accurately represent posts/tweets that came from you?”
He said the council member responded the next day, saying “My attorney… is reviewing everything. Once I’ve discussed it with [redacted], I will let you know.”
Schwartzman said as of Jan. 5, he had not heard anything further from the council member or attorney.
The mayor has not publicly named the council member who has been under investigation.
But others have identified him as Ward One council member Bradley Hix, using the Twitter account @searayliving.
That Twitter account has been deleted, but TSPR obtained a cached version of the account showing some of the content in question.
One interaction shows the @searayliving Twitter account responding “#freak” to a Tweet referencing nonbinary LGBTQ activist Jeffrey Marsh.
TSPR contacted Hix for comment on the allegations.
“I have nothing to say. It’s all campaign-related if you pay attention,” Hix said. “They’re trying to distract from their sales tax increase that they passed on to the people.”
That’s a reference to a quarter cent sales tax increase approved last month on a split vote, with the extra revenue from the tax to fund infrastructure projects and go toward a proposed community center.
Hix voted against the tax, along with council members Wayne Dennis and Larry Cox. The four newer members on the council – Jaclyn Smith-Esters, Sarah Davis, Kevin Wallace, and Dwight White – voted for it.
That was the same split vote when the former Churchill Junior High was selected as the site of the community center a couple weeks earlier, with Hix, Dennis, and Cox voting against it.
Hix was first elected to the council in 2019. He is up for reelection in the spring and is facing two challengers.
Smith-Esters, Wallace, and Cox all face challengers for their seats as well.
A safe place
The allegations were also addressed at the first city council meeting of the year on Jan. 3, though Hix was not mentioned by name.
“As some have heard, there have been allegations made against an individual member of this council,” Schwartzman said. “And we are following through to see what the validity of those allegations are.”
Schwartzman said he would limit his comments until further investigation, but he said he was very proud of Galesburg for its support of people from all backgrounds.
“No matter their age, their ethnicity, the language they speak, their home of origin, their sexual preference, their gender, their sex. All of the above,” Schwartzman said.
Some residents spoke on the issue during the public comments section of the meeting.
Among them was Samuel Carrington, who said they moved to Galesburg four years ago because it seemed like a safe place to live.
“As a queer, transgender, nonbinary person, safety is really important,” they said. “Because people like me are attacked and murdered at unprecedented rates.”
Carrington said they knew they would find bullies in Galesburg, but didn’t expect them “to hide behind titles as elected officials.”
TSPR has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for all city correspondence related to the allegations and investigation.
Tri States Public Radio produced this story. TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.