TAMPA — Mayor Pam Iorio has declined to honor the Council on American-Islamic Relations this year, ending a four-year tradition of proclaiming an annual CAIR Day.
Iorio said the Tampa Jewish Federation suggested several months ago that she take a closer look at CAIR, which has been accused of having ties to terrorist groups.
"We issued the proclamations in the past based on best available information. And now we're not going to issue proclamations based on best available information," Iorio said.
The group Americans Against Hate claimed credit for Iorio's decision in a news release on Wednesday. But Iorio said she was unfamiliar with the group.
"I don't even know what they are about," she said.
Americans Against Hate has long been lobbying Iorio's office to revoke last year's proclamation.
The group forwarded information to Santiago Corrada, the city's neighborhood services director, about CAIR being named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Texas trial of a now-defunct Muslim charity. Five of the charity's officers were convicted on charges they funneled more than $12 million to Hamas, a Palestinian group considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
Americans Against Hate also shared news reports that the FBI has cut some of its ties to CAIR.
Iorio said Corrada might have mentioned his contact with the group in passing, but she did her own research on CAIR. She wouldn't say where she got her information.
Americans Against Hate, based in Broward County, describes itself as a civil rights and terrorism watchdog group whose goal "is to be an active voice against those who spread bigotry and violence," according to its Web site. State corporation records list three directors: Joe Kaufman, Susan Naftali and Philip Hersh.
The group focuses much of its efforts on CAIR, a Washington, D.C., group with more than 30 chapters in the United States and Canada.
Ramzy Kilic, executive director of the Tampa chapter of CAIR, accused Americans Against Hate of a smear campaign. He said Kaufman fought expansion of a mosque in Pompano Beach, saying "it should not exist on American shores."
"It's unfortunate that our honorable Mayor Pam Iorio has succumbed to the pressure of anti-Muslim extremists such as Joe Kaufman," he said.
CAIR is a civil rights organization that seeks to enhance understanding of Islam, Kilic said.
"We're going to continue our noble work in defending the civil rights of all Americans. People will continue to attack us for the work we've done and the work we do," he said.
Since 2005, Iorio has named a CAIR Day, with proclamations praising the group for promoting civil rights and diversity.