A circle of concerned citizens could be seen forming a pocket around Palestine City Councilman Vernon Denmon in the Westwood Elementary School parking lot Tuesday evening following the sudden cancellation of a town hall meeting, which was to take place in the school's cafeteria.
Less than ten minutes before the meeting was to begin — promising a menu of information on general police business and city crime statistics from the Palestine Police Department — the event was canceled.
City Manager Wendy Ellis told the Herald-Press the cancellation was a “joint decision between my office and representatives of the police department.”
The timing, however, is anything but random, arriving 24 hours after a turbulent city council meeting in which 20 individuals addressed the panel (four in favor, 16 opposed) regarding Palestine Police Chief Robert Herbert's place in the department. Speakers included current peace officers, their families, citizens and legal officials from the Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA).
According to witnesses, Herbert could be seen in the elementary school's parking lot on Tuesday prior to the event, though was not present in minutes following. According to Lt. James Muniz, the meeting was intended to give community members an overview of city crime and prevention, with details of narcotic usage and traffic statistics.
But at 6 p.m., the meeting's projected start time, Muniz walked to the front of the cafeteria to report the event had been canceled.
“After last night's events, it has been determined that this forum would probably be used for something other than it was intended and take away from the people that live in the Westwood area and not give them the attention that they need,” Muniz announced to the crowd that included TMPA officials and many of the officers who had brought testimony before the council the previous evening.