Summerfield Town Planner Chris York has been suspended for “inappropriate” remarks he texted about a citizen and a Summerfield Town Council member. 

The suspension comes after a similar incident in 2020 which caused York to have his key professional planning certification suspended.

The new texts from York have been described as abrasive and derogatory by those who’ve seen them – and York has now been suspended for a week. He’s scheduled to return to work on Tuesday, July 6. 

Summerfield Town Council members have been advised by the town’s attorney not to comment on the situation beyond what’s included in an email sent from Summerfield Town Manager Scott Whitaker to the Town Council members.  That email stated that the suspension was due to “recent communication with a citizen about town business that was in appropriate given his position.”

The citizens in Summerfield are very divided regarding the future of development in the town of about 12,000 people, and those issues often lead to heated arguments and to hostile behavior and comments by one side toward the other.  York, as the town planner, is often at odds with those who believe the town is experiencing too much development too fast.

Summerfield residents who’ve seen the texts say the comments that York was suspended for include a derogatory remark about Summerfield Town Council Member Teresa Perryman (who was Teresa Pegram before recently getting married).

A community meeting  on the future of development in the town was held recently in Summerfield, and the meeting, which included comments by Perryman, was posted online. York began texting later that night – presumably while watching the video of the meeting on Facebook.

In 2020, York had his certification suspended from the American Planning Association’s professional institute, which is the main professional certification for the planning profession and one that planners at the top levels of planning are expected to have.

The ruling against York last year resulted from a February 2020 incident when an able-bodied town employee parked in a handicapped spot at the Summerfield Community Center where the Town Council was holding a meeting.

Don Wendelken – who runs the Summerfield Scoop Facebook page and now puts out a town newspaper with the same “Scoop” name – took a picture of the employee’s car parked in the handicapped space and posted it on his Facebook page. Wendelken didn’t state the name of the employee who parked illegally, but York, who’s has often at odds with Wendelken, came to his fellow town employee’s defense using an assumed name.

Under the online alias “Bobby Christopher,” York defended the employee who parked in the space, called Wendelken a “stalker” and used profanity.

After that 2020 incident, Whitaker apologized for York’s remarks and stated that the town planner’s comments were regrettable.

The suspension this week comes at a time when the town has a number of important planning and development questions on the table.

Though York’s suspension is for a week, some in the town are pushing Whitaker to offer a stronger punishment since York was previously warned not to engage in this type of behavior.