'Joke' email by Norwalk councilman irks colleagues

Second ward councilman at first thought it was "humorous" but admitted it "can be interpreted as racist."
MCT Regional News
Jan 5, 2014

A long-time Norwalk councilman said he didn’t believe an email he sent to friends, former co-workers, and the city law director was racist and derogatory to minorities, but instead he interpreted its content as humorous.

The email, entitled “Spelling Bee Champ,” was forwarded Dec. 12 from the personal email account of Norwalk Councilman Robert Carleton to more than a dozen people, including Norwalk law director G. Stuart O’Hara.

Carleton, the second ward councilman, admitted during an interview with The Blade to sending the contents in an email.

“In hindsight, I can see how it can be interpreted as racist, ... but that wasn’t my intent when I sent it. I thought it was humorous,” Carleton said.

Through insensitive, and bigoted jargon, the email, with grammatical and spelling errors, cruelly mocks an African-Hispanic girl who received extra points in a school spelling contest for “being black,” “not bringin” drugs and guns to class and “not getting pregnut during the cemester.”

The email also attacked the Affordable Care Act and affirmative action.

Carleton, 71, was elected to city council in the 1990s. According to the Huron County Republican Party Web site, he is an endorsed member of the party.

A copy of the email, including the list of recipients who were forwarded the message, was sent on Friday to The Blade.

When contacted, Carleton confirmed that the email account belonged to him and that he had sent the message to other people. The Gmail account he used to send the email from also is listed online as an contact for him as councilman.

O’Hara recalled that after receiving the email from Carleton about a month ago he immediately shared its contents with Mayor Rob Duncan and Steve Euton, president of city council. “I was shocked,” he said. “I didn’t care for the joke, if that’s what it was suppose to be.”

Other recipients of the message included former and current employees of a company in Tiffin, where Carleton used to work.

Duncan said he referred the matter to Euton after he obtained the email from the law director. He said actions of council members are not under the control of the administration and any discipline, censure, or review is the responsibility of council.

“Bob is technically not part of the administration. He is part of city council so we really don’t have authority over council. But this is nothing that we would condone or endorse,” Duncan said. “I think I know Bob well enough and I don’t think he would do anything malicious and intentional. But I think the content is unacceptable.”

The email controversy didn’t come up at the Dec. 17 council meeting, the mayor said.

Duncan said the incident prompted the administration to issue a memo asking elected city officials to be careful of the content of emails.

“I can see where someone would do that without thinking about it. But in our positions we have to think,” Duncan said.

———

By Mark Reiter - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)

Visit The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) at www.toledoblade.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Comments

jas

So my alleged name calling some how justifies your name calling as well as Carleton's racist "joke"? Sounds kind of hypocritical to me.

JACKEL

Yea Rbenn,Party Delegate at DNC. "We are The Party Of The People" and we welcome all,unless you are a " Christian,Gun Totin Redneck. Also we don't want God in our platform, but after 3 votes we finally accepted God after the booing subsided !

Truth2u

Jas's post should be nominated for the dumbest post of the year award, Does the reflector have such an award?

jas

You proved my point - Truth2u. Conservatives can make jokes but they can't take one about one of their idols - Ronald Reagan. The man who started all this ridiculous Trickle Down economics that caused our economic mess.

You're naïve and ignorant if you think our economic problems began 5 years ago or even 10 years ago. The housing problems were not the beginning. Every reputable economist, not the political economists, trace back all the changes in our economy to the changes in public policy began by Reagan. Even David Stockman, Reagan's Chief Economic Advisor, has stated that "Supply Side" economics was wrong. Not a single sector of the economy that has been deregulated has had any benefits for consumers or tax payers. Anyone who chose to destroy our economic regulatory system over the last 30 years is part of the problem whether they are Democrats or Republicans.

Canada has had to deal with most of the same economic problems over the last 30 years that we have and they have survived better than the US because they chose not to dismantle their economic regulations and did not give tax cuts that disproportionately benefitted the wealthiest.

Learn a little economics instead of simply repeating the talking points of Rush Windbag and Faux News.

CoopersHawk72

Just because someone is a registered republican does not mean they agree with media statements. People can think for themselves and vote for who they think best. Why do people think voters are just party sheep?

swiss family

wow.. I hate to disagree so strongly Kat, but being offended by this type of racially demeaning "humor" is NOT satire.. it is racist and was acceptable for centuries, but with everything else that we have seen progress over the past several hundred years, I would have hoped that being intolerant of other people just because they are different from what "we" consider to be the "norm".. Take a look around and see that "we" have progressed, at least openly, we have a Black President, we have Black Judges and even Supreme Court Justices, should it be time to make it as inappropriate thinking this way, as it is to promote, and rent and own homes, etc...."change you thinking, and change the world"

zombiefan1982

Right on.

swiss family

oh, and one more thought Kat...do you see that what you said about "Stuart" in a sense to belittle and shame him for his actions and thoughts, is the very same tactic used in racism.. look at the email.. it used derogatory terms, phrases and names to make fun of and put some people down, just like you calling a man with possible standards and morals, down and shaming him into thinking what he did was inappropriate,, I mean no disrespect, I think that for generations, we all have heard these "jokes" and "secret put downs" but just because our fore fathers thought that way, and even our own parents might have thought that way and even joked that way does not mean that we keep the tradition alive...like John Lennon said... "Imagine" what the world would be like without this type of judgement and hatred..

fedup2

The truth always hurts..and that email was minor compared to what is going on. Black history month, professional sport team being sued because there aren't enough blacks on the team..but don't mention all the other teams that are predominately black. I could go on and on....Team Bob on this one!!

Really are you ...

Send him to teen challenge.

Kottage Kat

Tsk Tsk

lifeisabitch

I for one can take a joke, none of this bothers me because I've heard jokes my whole life. I don't take them literally because they are a "joke" so laugh if you like it or shrug if off and move on! I just wish people would wake up and have a little fun instead of taking things so personal that someone else says is a joke or not.

christinag

Mr. Carleton, your e-mail was racist. Period. I understand that back in the day and age when you were employed at a real job you could make your comments to your co-workers while you were having a couple at the bar on lunch, but in todays day and age-you don't know who you are going to offend. I'm sure you didn't send that email to any of your African American friends because you knew they would find it offensive. How do you know if the people intended on getting the joke have bi-racial spouses, grandchildren etc.? You don't. I think the only hilarious part of the whole joke is that you are sitting there wondering which one of your "friends" turned it in. I also know that there are smart business men out there that you will have to face in the future-I would keep my head down if I was you.

J Cooper

Some people just loved to be offended, if you don't like it delete and block him from future emails, much worse can be heard on TV and the social media everyday. Whoever the twit that gave it to the newspaper is probably another public official trying to get favors from the newspapers, it was from a personal email, not a government account.

ModernDayBootlegger

Exactly. Last I checked, it's still a (barely, and for the time being) a FREE COUNTRY and Carlson can still speak any old which way he so pleases.
Don't like it, speak out AGAINST him. Or just ignore him.

It was a joke, somewhat funny, and nothing any worse than what I receive on a weekly basis from Councilman Schumm.

swiss family

sorry J Cooper, but I strongly disagree...I realize that we are still a somewhat small community, and still our racial diversity is still predominately white, and because of this, I think , these "Jokes" still circle around, but that does not at all mean that it is acceptable.

In larger communities, you see a higher mixture of the cultures and races, so it would be unusual to assume that people that you assiociate with through work or sports, family make up is still one straight line without any mixing.So, it is because of that element, that you don't hear of these "jokes" traveling....

I think people are getting confused by the term "racist" I would call it "prejudice... where you assume that people of any group all have the same anythings... you are pre judging, and that is hateful and harmful. I believe that many people who still tell these "jokes" have never been told that they are inappropriate, so to just delete them and go on will not help change the world.

Maybe if small town people, who hear distasteful and racist "jokes" from good people who happen to have small minds and small judgement, would stand up to the teller and tell them that you find it distasteful and harmful, you just might make what are seemingly good people, who have not thought it all the way through......painfully aware that they are part of the problem,and if you don't stand up to them, and "delete" the "joke" you are part of the problem as well...in my opinion

J Cooper

It was a private email get over it, its politically correct to joke about some ethnic groups but other groups are off limits unless you want to be labeled a racist, or prejudice. If someone tells a joke you think is distasteful or offensive, walk away, avoid them in the future, but you don't have to make a newspaper article out of it. Many people today seems to have their panties or boxers to be politically correct in a bunch over insignificant subjects.

I Can Read

Racist are the only ones screaming racism all the time. Genuine people don't even recognize it.
Someone please explain the difference between Jeff Foxworthy jokes and the material in Bob's email.

rbenn

Correct me if Im wrong but wasnt ebonics being pushed to be taught in schools? Yes it was. So why now is it offensive?

Fibber Mcgee

Bob will say he's sorry at the next council meeting and we will move on from
there. A stupid thing to do Bob.

Cliff Cannon

" Satire " has been a huge part of human entertainment for a very, very long time. Considering, how long Johnny Carson or " The Simpsons " ( to name just 2 famous American iconic satirist's ) have been a part of our American fabric. I'd have to say, we American's must enjoy our satire.


Obviously, satire is typically based on truth and through that 'truth', people, who really should cry, when they examine, the world around them, get to laugh instead. Satire at its best, will send it's sharp arrow into the heart of the lampooned and hopefully make that person or situation better.


So despite, having the handicap of not reading this entire email, as well as this email having the handicap of being racially charged.


I will say without equivocation : Only the willfully blind can not see the dark powers of destruction ( poverty, disease, drugs, lack of education and dang near war itself ) at work in our great cities and not understand the satirical premise of this email. Then add this; It's to dang bad the email didn't satirize all American kids who talk, think or act this way.


So personally, I have no censure for Mr. Carleton. I would , however suggest he picks better, more loyal, able to be trusted friends in the future.


Because, one thing is crystal clear here: Whom ever turned this into the " Toledo Blade " made a mountain out of a mole hill, made Norwalk look bad for no reason, what so ever. Worse, he/she possibly put Mr. Carleton's very life into danger and why ?


Because they lacked the simple courage to stand up and say " I do not like what you did, because it was tasteless " So his 'friend ' did what cowards always do---drove the knife deep into not only Mr. Carleton's back, but Norwalk's as well.

Contango

Re: "Toledo Blade"

And according to the news in the media, an argument could be made by "some" that Mayor Bell is selling the city to the Chinese. GASP!

Cliff Cannon

I have a hunch, considering the disrepair one finds in many parts of that once beautiful city. The Chinese, just might ask for a refund. :(


P.S. Considering your affection for one of history's greatest satirist's-- George Orwell. I am kind of surprised you did not mention him in your commentary's.

Contango

Re: "George Orwell."

Referred to him in today's SR version of the story.

I tend to agree with the late Neil Postman, who once stated that we are more likely to amuse ourselves into a dystopia, ala "Brave New World" as opposed to being forced into one as in "Nineteen Eighty-Four."

I actually find "Atlas Shrugged" to be disturbingly prescient regarding the unfolding of today's political events.

Ms. Rand was educated in the Soviet Union and knew a thing or two about dystopias.

swiss family

wow... I have to say Cliff, that I am genuinely surprised.I thought that after how ever long of reading your editorials, and your e paper blogs, I thought I could usually guess what side of a story you would be on.. You have surprised me this time for sure

I refuse to believe that all of the writings I have read from you promoting peace, love,and tolerance, were all just medals you pinned on your jacket on Sundays in Church, and in reality , were never what you stood for at all.

If I am reading your point correctly, and please let me know if I am not, you seem to be saying, that this "satire" (which is actually racism)has been around, and part of our entertainment, forever.. you are right, but slowly it is being seen as racially unacceptable. think of Amos and Andy, shows like that disappeared a long time ago, because although the "good old white boys" enjoyed it, possibly because it was so destructive to groups or people that we feared. How about acts like Al Jolson, in black face?? you don't see those acts anymore either.

You also do not see many movies like the old Shirley Temple days where the only black characters, were the butlers who tap danced their way into our hearts because not only were they obedient, but were still presented as domesticated slaves as well.>br>
You are correct, and we do agree that the "dark powers of destruction" but in your list you did not cite Racism as a dark destructive power, it is.Then you put the icing on the cake, and honestly really surprise me, you seem to blame the person who was offended by the "satire"(which, by the way, was very offensive)You suggest to Mr Carelton, that he "pick better and more loyal friends to send it to"....WHAT???? so it is OK to make fun of groups of people, but make sure that they are all as "racist" as the sender is????

I will agree that this type of activity has been around a very long time, and after generations of this type of "masked hatred", it seems like forever to get everyone to understand how destructive these "jokes" are.The truth of the matter though, to me, is that it is time to stop being tolerant of our "racist" friends, and especially city officials. You are right though, the recipient should have confronted Mr Carelton about how offensive this was.Maybe Mr Carelton has never thought it all the way through, And how do we know for sure that the recipient didn't do that the last time they got one from Mr Carelton???we don't know..

I have to say that, to me, the knife in the back to Mr Carelton and as you say "Norwalk "is NOT the person who spread word to whatever resources picked up on it, The person who is holding the knife that stabbed Norwalks reputation, was Mr Carelton himself. in my opinion

Cliff Cannon

@ Swiss family : I was told the email in it's entirety is on the " Register " So I went and read it. It is extremely tasteless, so Mr.Carleton obviously, will be catching hades for that.


It is however, still making a mountain out of a mole hill by turning it into the " Blade "


As to your opinions of me---enjoy them. I am certain at least half of them, will be correct. :)

former local

Sorry Cliff, Mr. Carleton drove the knife into his own back by being a PUBLIC OFFICIAL and forwarding that type of email, especially including the city law director. People who hold public office should be held to a higher standard. If he wishes to forward these emails, then he can feel free to when he is no longer a PUBLIC OFFICIAL. I guarantee that if he were not a PUBLIC OFFICIAL, the Blade wouldn't have cared. Big difference when he hold public office. An apology, publicly, and it should be over, everyone makes bad decisions.

Cliff Cannon

@former local : I really love to debate. Most of all, I love to debate, to learn and as such, gratefully acknowledge those who teach me in debate.Like you and ' Swiss family ' here.

To wit :" I guarantee that if he were not a PUBLIC OFFICIAL, the Blade wouldn't have cared " add 'swiss' chiming in a similar fashion and one is left to say : Point acknowledged,I was wrong.

So here's hoping your correct in saying " An apology, publicly, and it should be over, everyone makes bad decisions " Because, obviously, Mr. Carleton is a dedicated public servant and who would want this type of garbage to drag on ?

May I add this ? Like everyone in Norwalk, I have people , I call for the " inside story " and although, quite a few folks are pointing the finger at our law director, because he is quoted in the 'Blade' as being the person who squealed to them. That is not necessarily so.


Apparently, the email --- go figure-- was forwarded, a few times. So a vast number of people could be the squealer who ' made a mountain out of a mole hill '. Who ever did it, I think we can all agree on this: I wish they hadn't.

Contango

Re: "Apparently, the email --- go figure-- was forwarded, a few times."

To the best of my knowledge that's an OLD email. I believe I saw it YEARS ago.

IMO, this could have and should have been handled internally or personally; "someone" has a political ax to grind.

Cliff Cannon

" IMO, this could have and should have been handled internally or personally; "someone" has a political ax to grind. "

Agreed. Questions are 'who' and more importantly ' Why' ?

Because, obviously, at such a troubled time in our city's history. The last thing, we needed, is a tasteless e-mail, to become the focal point of Norwalk's political discussions. ( Or worse, the possible danger to Mr. Carleton himself)

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