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Norm Roche wants explanation for being booted from affirmative action panel

Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche demanded an apology and retraction — or a deeper explanation — Saturday from commission Chairwoman Susan Latvala over her decision to remove him from a county panel that handles discrimination policy.

Latvala sent a one-sentence memo Friday revoking Roche's appointment to the Affirmative Action Committee, which oversees the human rights office of the county. Latvala said her decision was in response to statements Roche posted using an online alias on the website of the St. Petersburg Times, tampabay.com. The comments included remarks on race, gays and welfare recipients.

"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," Roche wrote. "The potential precedence this action signifies — based upon the presumed justification, and with respect to the board's 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."

In an interview this week, Roche acknowledged that he posted comments on online news reports under the alias "Reality."

Besides barbs at other politicians, Reality wrote that St. Petersburg was unique in Pinellas in its number of "thug shootings" and "prostitutes beatings" and "social service recipients.''

In July 2010, when Roche was at the time running for a seat on the commission, Reality complained of "race pimps," concluding, "Whitie isn't to blame for your ignorance."

Reached Saturday, Latvala said she stood by her decision to remove Roche from the low-profile board, calling it the "chairman's prerogative." Her decision has been supported by Vice Chairman John Morroni, who is in line to succeed her as chairman in 2012.

Roche, who has defended the posts, did not respond to a message seeking comment Saturday.

Norm Roche wants explanation for being booted from affirmative action panel 11/19/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 19, 2011 8:57pm]
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