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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The aftermath of the Midtown candidate forum



ST. PETERSBURG -- City Council member Karl Nurse ruffled feathers at a Midtown candidate forum Monday when he declined to state how many black employees he employed.

Nurse, president of the printing shop Bay Tech Label, said about 20 percent of his workforce are minorities, and most are Latino.

On Tuesday, he provided an answer: His two black employees represent six percent of his 31-person workforce.

But it was too late to satisfy Theresa Lassiter, the Midtown activist who asked Nurse the question. She said Nurse refused to answer the question Monday because he does not employ any blacks.

A verbal complaint has been filed with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about Nurse's hiring practices and the legal status of his Latino employees. ICE does not comment on complaints or ongoing investigations.

Nurse said his company verifies the work status of its employees as legally required.

Nurse said he has tried to improve the quality of life in Midtown since he was appointed to the City Council by creating foreclosure assistance programs and a banking program for low-income residents. But Lassiter told him Monday night he has not accomplished anything.

Nurse said he expected to be attacked at the forum because some of the event organizers support his rival.

"It should have been called the Vel Thompson campaign forum," he said. "I know it was a set up."

Organizer Lillian Baker said she has not endorsed Thompson and that the forum was fair because questions came from residents.

Meanwhile, council member Jim Kennedy had an impromptu meeting with former council member David Welch today at Welch's Midtown office.

Kennedy was criticized during the forum after he said Nurse was more qualified than Welch to represent District 6, a majority black district that includes most of Midtown.

"He wanted to explain what he said," Welch said.

Nurse and Kennedy are white. Welch, Baker, Lassiter and Thompson are black.

Cristina Silva, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:10pm]


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