MEDIA — A recent news story that a Delaware County employee allegedly sent out a racist email in 2015 prompted some local politicians to hold a press conference Wednesday denouncing the email, if true, and calling for an independent investigation into its source.
“I and my elected colleagues know – more than anyone else may know – that you cannot always believe stuff published on the internet,” said state Rep. Margo Davidson, D-164 of Upper Darby. “Nonetheless, the accusations are disturbing and the ramifications are dire. They’re dire enough that they would affect tens of thousands of people, and we must be hyper-vigilant to make sure it is not true in Delaware County.”
Davidson was joined on the county courthouse steps Wednesday evening by fellow state Reps. Jennifer O’Mara, D-165 of Springfield, and Dave Delloso, D-162 of Ridley, as well as state Sen. Anthony Williams, D-8, of Philadelphia, Yeadon Council President LaToya Monroe, Democratic District Attorney candidate Jack Stollsteimer, members of the Delaware County Black Caucus and others.
The story broke May 25 on the online publication YC News and included images of a purported email from a person identified as a supervisor in Delaware County Adult Probation and Parole using a racial slur in apparently giving advice about how to apply for a job with the county.
“Good morning,” the redacted email begins, “you don’t have to worry about job security … ROFL … so long as there’s a n---- in our county, you will have a full slate. Just make sure he registers as a (redacted) before applying, they’re extremely strict about that. Can’t have a bunch of ganbangs loving (redacted) in here … ha. (sic)”
YC News indicated in its story, which does not include a byline, that the alleged email came to light as part of a request under the state’s Right to Know Law to inspect electronic communications between all Delaware County law enforcement agencies. The county says they have no record of such an email.
The story claims the email was “between several county officials and a current department supervisor, where they accidentally carbon copied a probationer.”
“Many of us were startled by the public revelation, but I will also tell you the broad array of us standing here today and many others were not shocked, which I think, frankly, is very disconcerting,” said Williams.
Williams called on “every inch of power” in the government to be used in meting out the source of the email to find out who said what and when, and to “swiftly boot them out the door.”
Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. County council spokeswoman Adriene Marofsky issued a statement indicating the county and courts were made aware of “an alleged email attributed to its employees by someone identifying himself as a journalist” but were unable to find a record of the email existing.
“The county and courts take an allegation such as this very seriously,” said Marofsky in the statement. “The county and courts acted immediately and directed the county’s Department of Information Technology to review all county and court emails from 2014 through the present. Our ongoing investigation has not found the email described in the YC News publication. The county’s Department of Information Technology also conducted a broader search for county and court emails containing key words in the email referenced in the YC News publication and has not found evidence of any employee communication that included that language. If an employee was found in any manner to be making racist remarks he/she would be subject to immediate termination. In furtherance of this ongoing review, we encourage anyone having possession of this alleged, original email to promptly provide it to the county or courts.”
Nik Tzimas Hatziefstathiou, identified as YC News’ publisher and national news director on its website, provided the following statement from Anthony Loro, who Hatziefstathiou identified as senior executive editor of YC News’ parent company, Original Media Group Corporation: “Delaware County has only one person to blame for the skeletons that lurk inside their closet, and that is themselves. We cannot be held responsible for those alarming e-mails allegedly sent between employees of the Delaware County Department of Adult Probation and Parole. The real facts will be revealed through depositions, through the evidence that we have in our possession and through the litany of lawsuits that will be filed against them. We stand by our reporting.”
Davidson – a target of prior stories published by YC News – said she does not believe the website is credible, but said it is important to confirm independently whether the email is a fake. She and other Delaware County elected representatives have sent a letter to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro requesting an investigation by his office’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section.
Davidson also took the opportunity Wednesday to point to what she deemed a “stunning lack of diversity” in the Delaware County criminal justice system. The county is 22 percent African American, Caribbean and African, and 10 percent Asian, Davidson said, but those figures are not reflected in courthouse employees.
Davidson added that Delaware County has a troublingly low number of cases dismissed and high percentage of plea deals, which she attributed to prosecutorial overreach and marginalized people being scared into taking deals when confronted with lengthy sentences, regardless of guilt.
“Regardless of the truth of these allegations, this conversation is necessary and imperative,” said Davidson. “There are true, real true factual hints of trouble here in Delaware County that we know are true. Inequities right here in our beloved county.”
Stollsteimer, who faces Republican Copeland in November’s General Election, said it is important to determine whether the alleged email is factual or if someone is attempting to sow disunity in the community. But perhaps more importantly, he said, is the need to have a conversation addressing perceived disparities and bias in the criminal justice system.
Stollsteimer said a recent Pew Research Center survey found 87 percent of African-American adults nationally believe the criminal justice system is biased against people of color, while 61 percent of white respondents agreed with that assessment.
“When we have an overwhelming majority of adults in this country who believe that our criminal justice system is biased against one group of people simply because of the color of their skin, we have a problem in this society and we have to start addressing it,” he said. “And the conversation is uncomfortable, but it has to start, and it has to start today.”
“This isn’t about one of us,” said Monroe. “This isn’t about an individual. This is about the impact that these people can have on all of us. Our nation is failing at protecting us as a people. …We need to do something and we need to do it now.”