The Short, Tumultuous Tenure Of Corpus Christi Mayor Dan McQueen
After 37 days in office, Dan McQueen resigned as mayor of Corpus Christi. Here’s what happened.
After just 37 days in office, Dan McQueen announced his resignation as the mayor of Corpus Christi via Facebook last Wednesday. “Consider this my resignation. I resign immediately,” he wrote in the Facebook post, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. “The city can no longer deal with such differing views and divisiveness. I step down from my position as Mayor, in order to allow the council and city to regain focus on success. Sorry, they are now into my ex-wives and kids. Nothing good will come from that mess.”
The sudden resignation marked the end of a tumultuous, albeit short, tenure as mayor. McQueen, who ran as a political outsider and made promises to fix the city, encountered a clean water crisis less than two days after he came into power. In recent weeks, he took jabs at local media and members of the city council on Facebook, and found himself the subject of several investigative news reports that raised questions about the legitimacy of his educational background and the nature of his relationship with his chief of staff.
By the time McQueen officially tendered his resignation to the city secretary, he had clearly had enough of the intense public scrutiny that all high-ranking public officials inevitably must face. McQueen hinted at his intention to quit as early as last Monday, according to Corpus Christi’s local ABC affiliate KIII-TV, when he took to Facebook to criticize both the media and his constituents, all while drawing a tenuous link between himself and Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“On a Day of Unity, I find a City of Divisiveness. Dr. King and I both are graduates of Boston University, and I find my-self in a city named, “The Body of Christ” (IRONIC). However, 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. I just don’t see the VALUE in this fight for 600 more. I had such HOPE for our city. God Bless Corpus Christi!”
McQueen deactivated his Facebook page shortly after that post, then re-activated the account on Wednesday. Given his lack of experience in the public sector—during his campaign, McQueen branded himself as a “tech guy” who would apply his business and engineering background to the mayor’s office—it’s sort of understandable that McQueen felt a little shell-shocked by his busy first (and, as it would turn out, only) month leading the city. But it’s still surprising to see how quickly it all fell apart.
When McQueen was campaigning for mayor, Corpus Christi was already reeling from three water boil notices in less than a year under former mayor Nelda Martinez. According to the Caller-Times, local frustrations boiled over (pun absolutely intended) into the election, helping underdog McQueen emerge with a rare victory over an incumbent. Although they knew little about McQueen, voters, according to the Caller-Times, simply wanted change.
But Corpus Christians were quickly confronted with more of the same. The city was hit with a fourth, far more serious water crisis just 36 hours into McQueen’s mayoral tenure in December, when a chemical asphalt emulsifier leaked from a private industrial site into the water system, potentially contaminating the entire city’s water supply. McQueen was forced to issue a city-wide ban on the use of tap water that lasted for nearly four days. Although it certainly wasn’t McQueen’s fault, the incident was nonetheless a national embarrassment for Corpus Christi that made headlines on CNN and in the Washington Post. In a scathing post-mortem editorial following McQueen’s resignation, the Caller-Times wrote that McQueen was “was dictatorial and heavy-handed with fellow council members” and “disrespectful of their efforts to meet their obligation to keep constituents informed” throughout the water crisis.
In early January, McQueen announced on Facebook that he would not attend a popular annual event, the mayor’s State of the City address, because he instead had to attend his daughter’s wedding. His rant attacked the State of the City’s hosts, the local United Chamber of Commerce, for not checking with him before setting the date for the event. “I will NOT be presenting at this event!” McQueen wrote in his Facebook post, according to the Caller-Times. “Everyone has already been notified and I will not ask my daughter to change her date in Hawaii, nor will I miss her wedding for a NON PROFIT FUNDRAISER that didn’t take the time to ask before scheduling or advertising on their webpage. I am considering a future MAYOR VISION presentation, but will most likely use a different group. There is a real problem with the status quo and this needs to change if we expect the city to become more successful.” The event was never rescheduled.
And last week, a series of reports by Corpus Christi NBC affiliate KRIS-TV raised some troubling questions about McQueen. One report implied that McQueen, who campaigned on the back of his supposedly strong business credentials, actually didn’t have a particularly impressive record after all. According to KRIS-TV, McQueen was sued in 2007 for breaking a lease in a San Antonio shopping center where he was renting space for a karate school, and he still owes $25,000 on a court-ordered lien for the property. Citing court documents, KRIS-TV said McQueen was fined twice during that lawsuit for failing to turn over documents, and one of his attorneys withdrew from the case because he had “difficulty communicating” with McQueen. McQueen also ran a failed campaign to raise funds for a documentary film called Party Hard. According to KRIS-TV, the would-be director said the film would expose the “drugs, parties, illegal immigrants, and career criminals” supposedly living off of contributions to local homeless shelters. The film’s online Kickstarter fundraiser campaign raised exactly $0 of its $7,250 goal.
Another KRIS-TV report raised questions about McQueen’s academic background. According to KRIS-TV, McQueen has claimed for at least the past three years that he had a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Florida State University. But Florida State apparently had no record of anyone with McQueen’s name and birthdate earning a degree from the school. McQueen didn’t directly respond to KRIS-TV’s questions, but he did delete a LinkedIn profile that KRIS-TV said listed his Florida State degree just hours after the news station asked him about it. He also deleted his website, which mentioned that he earned a bachelor’s in electrical engineering. We did find this flier for what appears to have been a speaking engagement McQueen attended at Delmar College, listing the Florida State degree in McQueen’s biography. The Caller-Times was able to confirm that McQueen earned a master’s degree in computer information systems at Boston University, and a bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, but it is still unclear why the bachelor degree details seem to have been made up.
McQueen, apparently upset that people were asking questions about his academic record, promptly took to Facebook, posting: “CORPUS CHRISTI City Council comprised of only High School graduates! But that is not the Story, you should ask WHY? I think the answer is MONEY! Attack the most educated and experience person on the council, FUNNY!” At least most of that statement is not true. According to the Caller-Times, the educational backgrounds of council members range from high school diplomas to bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
The next scandal to hit McQueen last week sounds like it came straight out of the Netflix series House of Cards, or at least a daytime soap opera. According to KRIS-TV, driver’s license and voter registration records show McQueen and his chief of staff, Shari Douglas, had shared a home address from 2012 up until after McQueen was elected, when Douglas changed her home address to a P.O. box. Douglas told KRIS-TV that she and McQueen were simply “good friends.” But McQueen’s former campaign treasurer Cliff Harris told the station that Douglas was McQueen’s “live-in girlfriend,” and the former mayor’s estranged son told the news station that his father and Douglas had been romantically involved for decades. The city of Corpus Christi’s employment policy forbids employees from hiring domestic partners without first disclosing their relationship and getting approval from the city manager.
Anyway, Corpus Christi seems pretty happy to be rid of this guy, even though it leaves the city in a difficult spot. City Councilwoman Carolyn Vaughn is the mayor pro tem, and there will be a special election to choose a new mayor at some point. It’s unclear when, exactly, the election will be held, but it will likely be either in May or way down the line in November. According to the Caller-Times, a November election typically costs the city between $250,000 and $300,000, but Nueces County Clerk Kara Sands told the paper that a May election would be far more expensive.
With the water crises and now McQueen’s odd resignation, Corpus Christians just can’t seem to catch a break. Let’s hope the next mayor knows what’s ahead.