Roche demands apology or explanation over his snarky Web persona
Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche on Saturday demanded an apology and retraction -- or a deeper explanation -- from Commissioner Chairwoman Susan Latvala over her decision to boot him off a county panel on discrimination policy.
In an e-mailed memo to fellow commissioners and top county officials, Roche wrote:
"I can only deduce that this action has been taken as a result of what I view to be misrepresentations contained in recent and unsubstantiated news reports in the St. Petersburg Times. The potential precedence this action signifies – based upon the presumed justification, and with respect to the Boards operations as we move forward in addressing the many important challenges facing our county – is deeply concerning to me.
"In the interest of fairness, should my deduction of your justification for this action be inaccurate – I eagerly await your presentation to my office, a complete explanation for this action to include acceptable and applicable documentation that justifies this action at this time."
Roche acknowledged in an interview at his office this week that he posted comments on online news reports under the alias "Reality" on tampabay.com, the Website of the St. Petersburg Times. Comments by Reality lashed at fellow commissioners, St. Petersburg and crime, and political correctness on gays and race -- drawing backlash from Mayor Bill Foster and fellow board members.
In the interview, Roche defended posting online and said: "Yeah, yeah I have posted under Reality and Norm Roche. Sometimes in the discussion thread."
In response to Times reports on Roche, Latvala sent a one-sentence memo Friday revoking his appointment to the Affirmative ActionCommittee, which oversees the human rights office of the county. Latvala stood by that decisionas the "chairman's perogative' Saturday afternoon (commission chairs decide appointments). She was backed Friday by Vice Chairman John Morroni, who is in line to succeed her as chairman in 2012.
Roche did not respond to a message seeking comment Saturday. Previously he has requested a televised, moderated discussion with Times executives, but also sent an e-mail hours later to the Times saying he would respond to e-mailed questions about commission decisions but not the anonymous Web posts. He has not responded to questions e=mailed Thursday and Friday.