LIBERTY HILL, Texas (AP) _ Every weekday, 91-year-old Troy Joseph's family drops him off at the building that houses city offices, where he sits in his usual black armchair in the city's information center, greeting visitors and sometimes chatting with old friends who drop by.
He's been the unofficial town greeter since 1994.
But recently, some city officials have made it clear that they'd rather not have Joseph, and his sometimes salty language, greeting visitors.
And when the mayor posted a message on Facebook comparing Joseph to a Klansman after what she described as a verbal confrontation with him, the ill will erupted into public view.
At the end of December, Mayor Michele “Mike'' Murphy wrote on Facebook that Joseph started cussing at her during a city council meeting in the summer because she didn't want him to be the town's greeter any more.
Murphy, a 61-year-old guitarist who owns Natural Ear Music School in Austin, also posted a photo of her and African American Grammy award-winning pianist Pinetop Perkins, with a note saying: “I'm a little different than old Troy I guess. Not KKK.''
Joseph, who is legally blind, does not read Facebook, but his relatives do. A few days later his daughter, Suzy Lyon, wrote a letter published on the front page of a local online newspaper, Radio Free Liberty Hill, saying her father was not a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
“He is a World War II veteran and retired businessman who has volunteered countless hours in our community,'' Lyon wrote. “I feel the Mayor's conduct is completely reprehensible and unprofessional.''
The paper also ran a letter from Murphy in response. She said she had taken down her Facebook posting but added that it would be part of a book she's writing about her experiences as mayor.
“Dear Joseph Family,'' the letter said. “I regret that my postings brought you anger and shame, but I'll stand by the accuracy of my recollections.''
Murphy said this week she plans to apologize to Joseph. She said she never thought he was a KKK member.
“It was a joke. It was stupid to do my writing on Facebook,'' Murphy said.
She said she still thinks Joseph should leave his post at the information center.
“He's not an advantage to Liberty Hill,'' she said.
A few blocks away from Murphy's house, Joseph sat at the information center Tuesday with two friends. “I've never been a member of the KKK,'' said Joseph, a former Democratic Party chairman who said he voted for President Barack Obama. “I don't know where she got that from. I think she is a smart lady who is not in a situation where she should be.''
He said Murphy should apologize to him, but he added that he “doesn't care whether she does or not.''
Joseph, a retired construction worker, said he talks in a “direct'' manner.
“I might say a few bad words,'' he said.
But he said he also wants to help anyone who walks into the information center.
The lifelong Liberty Hill resident said he knows everything about the city, including who has land for sale and where people can find relatives buried in the cemetery. He's listed on the city website as the person for visitors to call to get information about the city.
“I just like to help people,'' he said.
“He wouldn't hurt a fly,'' said Darrell Collier, one of Joseph's friends.
Former City Hall inspector Peter McKinney said he wanted Joseph out of the information center because he's afraid of walking in and finding that Joseph had passed away.
Liberty Hill City Council Members Jack Harkrider and Glen Gavin said they did not have a problem with Joseph being at the information center.
Previously, a group of men who visited Joseph “had a tendency to use foul language,'' Harkrider said, but the city has since passed an ordinance against the use of profanity near city buildings.
Murphy probably should not have criticized Joseph on Facebook, Harkrider said.
“All we can do is try and get past it,'' he said. “Several articles she wrote or put on Facebook were pretty abrasive, but I think she's learned it's not a good thing to do things like that.''