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St. Petersburg neighborhood leaders call a meeting to discuss racially-charged e-mail exchange

ST. PETERSBURG — Confronted by a string of racially charged e-mails, the Council of Neighborhood Associations has called a special, closed-door meeting of its executive board to deal with the fallout.

Monday's meeting will discuss issues raised in a Times article Friday that detailed a 29-message exchange about the black community, crime and city leaders. Mayor Bill Foster and some black leaders called some of the messages offensive and racist, others disagreed.

"Needless to say, there's been considerable discussion of the article," CONA president Will Michaels said Friday.

Michaels and Gypsy Gallardo, a local publisher who helps lead the Agenda 2010 effort focused on city policies affecting the black community, spoke Friday and agreed to hold a meeting to discuss racial issues. Details haven't been worked out, but Michaels suggested it would be a private roundtable discussion in December.

"That was a really, really good conversation," said Gallardo, who reacted to the messages with an e-mail of her own with the subject, "A whites-only conversation about race in St. Petersburg."

CONA operates a private e-mail exchange for neighborhood leaders, but the messages became public when they were copied to Foster. In particular, a message by former City Council candidate Steve Corsetti, a Riviera Bay neighborhood leader, questioned whether senior city administrator Goliath Davis was an "enabler" or a plantation master. E-mails by another CONA leader, Judy Ellis of Lakewood Estates, exaggerated the role of black residents in murder cases and said they had "no sense of consequences."

Corsetti, who chairs CONA's public safety committee, his wife, Jean, and Ellis are on CONA's 10-person executive board. Steve Corsetti, who didn't return a message seeking comment, is on vacation, CONA members said. Ellis, who stood by her statements, said she was unaware of the meeting's topics beyond the announcement Friday afternoon.

Asked if the executive board will discuss action against anyone involved in the e-mail exchange, Michaels declined to answer.

"After we have met and discussed the articles and other matters then there may be some public action," Michaels said.

David DeCamp can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779.

St. Petersburg neighborhood leaders call a meeting to discuss racially-charged e-mail exchange 11/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 12, 2010 11:09pm]
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