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Chief of Staff issues apology for tree removal from city park for Trump rally

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MOBILE, AL (WALA) -

An apology has been issued by Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper for his role in having a cedar tree removed from a public park to be used as "decorations" during President-elect Donald Trump’s rally at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Saturday, December 17.

Trump was in Mobile for a victory tour event at the football stadium, a site which was one of the largest rallies during his campaign for the presidency.

On Thursday, a cedar tree was cut down at Public Safety Memorial Park and transported to the stadium to be used as a backdrop during the event. Cooper issued his apology on Facebook Sunday.

Read Cooper’s statement in full:

"Yesterday’s visit by President-Elect Trump to the City of Mobile was a incredible opportunity to showcase our City and offer a great event to those attending.

"In preparing for this event, I worked closely with the advance team. In an effort to make sure every detail was covered and the expectations of the President-Elect’s team  exceeded, I became overzealous.

"I now know there are citizens who are upset and offended that a tree from a city park was used as part of the decorations for the event. I accept full responsibility for having this done. For this, I sincerely apologize. Going forward, I will be more sensitive to the spectrum of concerns regarding trees."

Cooper did more damage control on Monday. In a separate statement on Twitter Cooper said: "To help make the Christmas tree situation right, I will personally pay for three cedar trees to replace the one taken. Also, I am paying for all ornaments used on tree. The tree used will be re-purposed."

Monday afternoon, Mayor Stimpson addressed the issue in this media release.

“I have spoken with the Chief of Staff regarding Saturday’s visit to the City of Mobile by the President-Elect. He made a mistake by directing our employees to cut down a tree from a city park and install it at Ladd-Peebles Stadium for the event. I have accepted his apology for that mistake.

At my direction, the tree will be re-purposed and our city staff has a plan in place to replant three Cedar trees in Public Safety Memorial Park.

Moving forward, we will ensure this mistake does not happen again. Vibrant public parks are central to my vision for making Mobile the most family-friendly city in America, and we are committed to safeguarding our signature trees.”

George Talbot with the mayor's office tells us Stimpson didn't know about the decision. He says it was solely Cooper's decision, after the Trump advance team asked for a Christmas tree during the rally.

"At some point, they [Trump team] expressed a need for the tree, and he came up with a plan there, and uh, it was properly and legally cut, we have reviewed that, city attorney's looked at it, it just was a regrettable decision," says Talbot.

Denise Grier walks her dog at Public Safety Memorial Park almost every day. She's used to see a cedar tree on her route, and that's why she snapped a picture when she noticed city workers cutting it down. She isn't happy about the city's impromtu decision to chop down the 50-foot tree to use as a decoration for the president-elect's rally on Saturday.

"I was disappointed, because you know, I feel like they could have gotten a tree from somewhere else...it just, shouldn't have been done."

The mayor's office says it is trying to figure out what to do with the tree, but it will be re-purposed in some way. The tree is at a city public works garage. In the meantime, the replacement trees have been ordered at no cost to the city.

All content © 2016, WALA; Mobile, AL. (A Meredith Corporation Station). All Rights Reserved.

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