The J’accuse Red Truth Editorial
YONKERS, NY — September 14, 2019 — It was Friday when a gathering of African-Americans stood in defiance of the bigotry too long permitted and embellished in its toxicity by every aspect of governance in the City of Yonkers (CoY). They gathered to stand on the steps leading to the eastern facing entrance/exit overlooking the Unity Fountain at Yonkers City Hall for a 4:00pm press conference.
Members of United Black Clergy of Westchester Inc., and The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), NAACP-Yonkers, and elected official recognized herein, gathered in response to the promotion of Yonkers Fire Fighter Richard LaPeruta to that of Lieutenant who had been suspended in 2017 for allegedly posting a racist comment and photo on Facebook.
The members of United Black Clergy of Westchester Inc., among others noted in the paragraph above said: “Mayor Spano promoted ten members of the Yonkers Fire Department, including Richard LaPeruta who is now a Lieutenant. In 2017, LaPeruta posted a racist photo and comment on Facebook which suggested that black people are apes. The United Black Clergy of Westchester and the NAACP – Yonkers Branch and the entire African American community is outraged and believes LaPeruta should have been terminated, not promoted. Further actions will be taken by the NAACP-Yonkers Branch as result of this promotion they admonished.
Those who DID attend were NAACP Yonkers Branch President Frank E. Coleman, President of Yonkers Vulcans Resident Reggie Crews, Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (AD-89), County Legislator Christopher Johnson (LD-16),Yonkers City Councilwoman Shanae Williams (District 1), President of the United Black Clergy Westchester Reverend Troy DeCohn, Solid Rock Christian Center Reverend William E. Norman Sr.
This writing also includes those who preferred to cling to their Faustian pact and thereby were ABSENT, that is, specifically Mayor Mike Spano, Yonkers City Council President Mike Khader, Yonkers City Council Majority Leader Michael Sabatino, Yonkers City Council Minority Leader Mike Breen, Yonkers City Councilmembers Corazón Pineda-Isaac, John Rubbo, Anthony Merante, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, Westchester County Deputy Executive Ken Jenkins, Legislator David Tubiolo, and the Albany Delegation, comprised of NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, NYS Senator Stewart Cousins, New York State Assemblyman Nader Sayegh (AD-90), New York State Assemblyman Thomas J. Abinanti (AD-92), Yonkers Fire Commissioner Robert Sweeney, Yonkers Acting Police Commissioner John Mueller, among a cadre of other “dignitaries” asserting themselves self important who did not care to attend, including not one member of any union who prefer to submit to fear of retribution from the Office of the Mayor of Yonkers than speak to that which undermines their tethered relationship to the power wielded by Mayor Mike Spano and those who speak in his name. For example, likes of the disgraced former NYS Senator Nick Spano, among other warlocks who huddle about a cauldron of deceit as did the witches depicted in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Others who did not attend were Nepperhan Community Center Executive Director Rev. Dr. Jim Bostic, Yonkers Board of Education Trustee President Rev. Steve Lopez, and Yonkers Board of Education Superintendent Dr. Edwin Quezada, among others of seeming “renown”. Additionally, those who chose to shrink from speaking truth to power, do so because they have learned to suckle to the tune of “get along, to get along”. Many dance to the intimacy of Yonkers symbiotic financial Tango to which they all submit to one extent or another.
Mayor Mike Spano’s Communication Director Christina Gilmartin issued the following statement on Friday, September 13, 2019, with respect to Yonkers Fire Fighter LaPeruta’s apology.
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano’s statement: “As a lifetime member of the NAACP, no one respects the diversity of Yonkers more than I do, and we have vastly increased the number of minority members of the Fire Department. It now stands at nearly 30%, which is almost double what it was when I became Mayor. We will continue to improve even more going forward.
“Fire fighter LaPeruta willingly accepted a 75 day suspension without pay because of his actions and has been denied promotion for the past two years. He has expressed his remorse many times since the incident and has written a letter of apology* to be shared with the community. I believe his apology is genuine and am willing to allow him to move forward in a Fire Department that grows more diverse with every passing year.”
*Letter of Apology by Richard LePeruta” Dated September 11, 2019.
The letter of apology by Richard LePeruta dated September 11, 2019th and replicated above earned a visceral response which informed those gathered that the letter was addressed to Yonkers Fire Commissioner Robert Sweeney and not to anyone in the Black Community. A letter dated April 26, 2017, ascribed by the Yonkers NAACP President Andrea M. Brown suggested they were perturbed by Fire Fighter LePeruta alleged conduct on Facebook recommended LePeruta receive sensitivity training. While sensitivity training is an effective tool, it should be presented to all who are hired by the City of Yonkers and all employers so as to keep up with evolving sensibilities and changing laws and responsibilities.
The Yonkers Tribune reported this incident on March 4, 2017 under the lede: Mayor Mike Spano Exemplifies the ‘Yonkers Way’ of Nurturing Bigotry Under a Smokescreen of Righteousness That is Nothing But a Seduction of His Moral Subterfuge and Bias By HEZI ARIS
While there is much of interest and specificity expressed the most pertinent to this issue is noted in paragraphs 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10.
The letter by the President Andrea M. Brown posted above proves that Mayor Mike Spano, Yonkers Fire Commissioner Robert Sweeney, and Yonkers I.A.F.F. Local 628 President Barry McGoey, and all those who were members of the Yonkers-NAACP, was shared with elected officials on every level of government as attested by people in the know on this matter. Yet on Friday a cry of ignorance and not knowing was expressed as if in an attempt to re-write history in the present, three years hence.
While LePeruta and Mayor Spano suggest LePeruta paid a heavy price and was passed over for advancement, thereby higher pay and likely overtime opportunities, those are the least of the concerns. Those suggestions in fact make light of the insensitivity of LePeruta’s conduct and the hurt he caused to the African-American community even if they did not have the will or the capacity to be exact in their language in beseeching the mayor for an enlightened demeanor. Andrea Brown’s timid expression only exacerbated a vile treatment of people who have suffered in one manner or another for some 500 years, hearkening to the days of slavery that first appeared on the North American continent. Lest it be misconstrued, Ms. Brown need not have been a lone voice three years ago, but she was.
Another admitted mistake by those who gathered at the Unity Fountain courtyard is their professed “trust” in the union to do the “right thing” and for Mayor Spano to do the “right thing”. Really? In Yonkers? Are you kidding me? What was the last “right thing” government said or followed through upon in Yonkers? In the 20 years of my reporting on Yonkers, I question what were the “right things” that people today profess transpired in the name of the Mayor of Yonkers, whether Mayor John Spencer, Mayor Phil Amicone, or present Mayor Mike Spano.
The salve that seems to soothe the pain and suffering in Yonkers is a “family and friends” employment opportunity. Employment by Yonkers City Hall or the Yonkers Board of Education, a department of City Hall begets quiescence.
Let’s explore the process, the pertinent issue of concern to those disgruntled by the conduct of LePerulta, and the consequent advancement of of LePerulta this past week.
First, there is no way a posting on social media attributed to anyone can be attested without question to the individual said to seemingly be the author. There is no mechanism to ascertain who is who. There is no legal means to ascertain who posted anything except for having access to an IP address which is coded into any message emanating from a computer, tablet, or cell phone. Should any person’s life be threatened, and it is recognized, the person concerned can launch a request of the place onto which such a threat was expressed and gain a court’s decision to obtain an IP address and thereby obtain the name of the owner of any of the equipment mentioned. But, that does not guarantee that the owner made the comment or the posting. It could have been another person. In the same way that you may own a car, that may have been stolen from you, or that you permitted someone else to drive. When a traffic camera takes a photo of that car, you will get the bill, but were you the driver? In an accident, there are instances when the person driving was not licensed and while formation is exchanged between those suffering an accident, the actually driver moves to another seat in the car to avoid being responsible for the accident and to be found guilty for driving without a license.
It should be recognized that while LePerulta was passed over and waited for advancement, he knew full well that City Hall would not fire the “friends and family” membership of which he is one. For example, in any municipality other than the anomaly known as Yonkers, LePerulta’s conduct, to which he admitted wrong-doing, though it could also have been a legal ploy, served him well. He initially refused to accept a 90 day suspension without pay. He did agree to 75 days. Once that was agreed to by LePerulta, The City of Yonkers (CoY), the Yonkers Fire Department, a call for LePerulta’s dismissal would legally fail because it is what is referred to as double jeopardy, you cannot sue a second time for the same issue / crime / concern after the case was agreed upon. Should anyone attempt to fire LePerulta presently, it will simply be thrown out of court and LePerulta could legally launch a financial challenge against CoY Easily gaining a remuneration of $500,000 and being re-instated
I can and do appreciate the anguish, frustration, anger, and disrespect LePeruta’s conduct impacted people of color, and those who have the capacity to appreciate those sensibilities. It shouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination. Native Americans, Women, Blacks, Chinese, Irish, Italians, Jews, Hispanics, Gays, Transgender people, Indians, Asian Americans, Koreans, Philippinos, Cubans, Mexicans, Jamaicans, Puerto Ricans, Arabs, and Africans. Each has borne the animosity and bigotry for being besmirched as the other in America, as they have likewise suffered in other countries in years past or to this day.
The difference from elsewhere to Yonkers is that Yonkers claims to be enlightened and tolerant when our conduct toward one another and our institutions are anathema to our professed to be our collective demeanor.
The first takeaway is that rather than “trusting” in a system that has failed Yonkers, that awaits the Mayor to respond with integrity and sensitivity to issues of bigotry, bias, in any and agenda to be balanced, timely, and fair to those affected would be best ameliorated by reaching out to media. Media that will give expression to their being disrespected, overlooked, being offered less because of one issue or another. What is the point of waiting three years for a remedy to find out the bias against people of color, specifically African-Americans in this case, is nothing but a ruse which has maligned them as individuals and collectively.
There are tried and true ways to challenge such bias. Rather than people of color awaiting an ethical outcome from the “man”, those who are maligned must beseech their elected officials to draft legislation that will disallow such deals and conduct to be engaged. Legislation toward ending such con games not being permitted in CoY demand a steadfast plan. The Yonkers City Council must move on ameliorating another situation analogous to the one herein discribed. Such a vote must be taken, it must be either a “Yes” or a “No”. An abstention is deficient. Every “No” and every “Abstain” must be remembered by the electorate. That is so the voter does not continue to keep such elected officials in office for another term or to promote such elected officials up the political food chain in the hope of getting rid of them. We have some present elected officials who have moved up the food chain but they have yet to deliver for Yonkersites. And likely do little more than promise the world and deliver a middle finger of contempt.
The issue must be brought to media, not social media. Find the media source that you trust and tell them your travail and define it in all its intricacy. Best yet, tell more than one media outlet. Yonkers is not an island. There are newspapers, tv, radio, and new media throughout Westchester County. In fact, New York City, one of the biggest and most powerful media centers in the world is our neighbor. Are Yonkersites suffering from laryngitis?
Lastly, speak up, explain yourself, learn the difference between right and wrong. The City of Yonkers has been protecting the “friends and family” network, they no longer recognize that the fear of retribution, the lies, the deceit, the false denials are waning in effectiveness. A new day is dawning because the repression and deleterious response of this administration and those prior to this one over the prior 20-years has become lethargic and complacent by its successful repression of right by the gruel of wrong they have fed CoY. Take that to the bank! The writing is on the wall. You can smell their fear!
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