Isle of Wight NAACP leader calls for supervisor’s resignationPublished 12:24pm Saturday, May 18, 2013
BY STEPHEN H. COWLES/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
ISLE OF WIGHT—Dottie Harris of Smithfield is not laughing.
As president of the Isle of Wight County Chapter of the NAACP, she called for Isle of Wight Supervisor Byron “Buzz” Bailey’s resignation during the public comment section of the supervisors’ regular Thursday meeting. He was not present then owing to a pre-scheduled absence. Her demand comes in the wake of a remark Bailey made during a budget work session on Monday.
“I guess we could be like Washington and print some money here in Isle of Wight County,” he said. “Save the Confederate money; the South will rise again.”
In response there was much laughter from many people in the room. Reportedly, though, School Superintendent Katrise Perera left after hearing the comment. A message was left with her secretary on Friday seeking confirmation.
At the time Bailey made his remark, the board was hearing requests from department heads for more money in the proposed fiscal year 2013-14 budget, which is $96.7 million. Earlier, for example, a Sheriff’s Department representative asked for an extra $145,000 to its proposed $3.8 million budget.
“I want to fund everybody, but you’ve only got so much money,” Bailey said.
His remark about printing money was not the only issue Harris has with him. She told the board she got a copy of a letter that Bailey sent to school board member Herb DeGroft of the Hardy District.
Harris dictated the letter over the phone to The Tidewater News on Friday morning. The newspaper also obtained a copy to confirm what was written. To begin with, Bailey wrote:
“First of all the comment about confederate money was a joke. It was meant to emphasize that IOW County was as short of money as the confederacy. If I offended Mrs. Perera or Mrs. [Denise] Tynes, I apologize. It was not my intention….I am sorry my comment was taken out of context. Wasn’t meant to be a comment to offend anyone.”
That was not enough for Harris, who said Bailey’s remark at the meeting was also “deeply hurtful to us,” specifically referring to African-Americans of Isle of Wight County. She questioned the sincerity of that written apology, adding she also wants him to make one publicly.
Harris told the newspaper it was “not a joking matter. He should have more tact in things that he says.”
She also said to the newspaper that several people handed her a copy of the letter, but declined to name them.
In addition to speaking on Bailey’s comment and letter, Harris presented board members with copies of forwarded emailed jokes. Most of them are about President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, and could be considered offensive. Some of these items date back to October and November 2012, others to March of this year. Bailey’s personal email address appears to be one source that has relayed the items to the personal e-mails of other board members and county staff.
In a copy of the emails that was given to the newspaper after the meeting, the cover page had the following:
Subject: The South Shall Rise Again…
Date: 05/16/2013 02:55 PM
Attachments: IOW County jokes.pdf(1.8 MB)
“Is this funny to you? Note the sender and recipients. Please send this to anyone that you can think of. They have to expose this garbage!!! Thank you!”
Answering from out of the county in regard to Harris’ demand, DeGroft said Bailey sent him the apology letter via email, which was copied to all to other school board members. But doesn’t know how it went beyond them to come into Harris’s hands.
“People interpret things in their own fashion,” DeGroft said about the remark. “I think it’s regrettable about the ‘South rising again,’ that’s what really affected this.”
He said he was unaware of the specific printed items that were handed out at the meeting.
Calls were made to Bailey’s home and office numbers on Friday on this resignation demand and the printed jokes.
Harris told the newspaper she originally got the copy of the emails from Smithfield District Denise Tynes of the school board, adding that Tynes said she received it in the mail with no return address.
If Bailey does not resign, Harris said to the board, she would seek a recall election. She told the newspaper she’s contacted state and national chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People about the matter.