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'TERRORIST' E-MAIL LEADS TO SUSPENSION

A local security manager was suspended from work after he replied to a Muslim job applicant's e-mail with the word "terrorist."

Ali Matallah, 32, said the experience has ruined his desire to look for employment as a security guard.

"I feel like if I look in another place, it might happen again," said Matallah, a native of Morocco living in Tampa.

Matallah earned his security guard certification two months ago and began looking for a job online through Craigslist. He responded to an ad posted by St. Moritz Security Services Inc., a Pittsburgh company that has an office in Tampa.

"I believe I would be a perfect fit for this position, as I have experience working for a few hotels," Matallah wrote in a e-mail dated Jan. 11. "I have an outgoing, customer-oriented personality and am always ready to help."

He highlighted his fluency in English, French and Arabic and attached a resume.

Less than 20 minutes later, St. Moritz regional operations manager Robert J. Massimino responded.

"Terrorist," is all his e-mail said. It wasn't addressed to anyone. It wasn't signed.

Matallah contacted the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which launched an investigation.

Massimino sent a written apology two weeks later.

"As you can no doubt tell from the e-mail inadvertently sent to you, I was engaging in a misguided attempt at humor with an associate," Massimino wrote. "For that, I am sorry."

Kevin Smith, vice president for St. Moritz, declined to discuss Massimino's e-mail or his suspension.

"We don't discuss personnel matters, but we feel he was appropriately disciplined for an insensitive comment," Smith said.

Ahmed Bedier, head of CAIR's Tampa chapter, said his office received more than 100 calls last year about anti-Muslim incidents. Most, he said, were employment discrimination cases.

"But rarely do we get such a smoking gun where the writing is on the wall, where you have clear evidence that an executive puts down their words in writing," Bedier said.

As for Massimino's apology, Matallah refused to accept it.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

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