Mr. Watermelon E-Mail Wants to Stay on Council

Orange County Register

After sending an e-mail depicting the White House front lawn full of watermelons, Dean Grose will step down as mayor of Los Alamitos.

 

Dean Grose is set to resign from his mostly ceremonial post of mayor of Los Alamitos at Monday’s City Council meeting, but he intends to stay on the council, despite an expected torrent of criticism for forwarding a racist e-mail.

City officials expect an extra large turnout at Monday night’s meeting. An additional police presence is planned, Los Alamitos police Capt. Bruce McAlpine told The Orange County Register. A smashed watermelon was found outside of Grose’s business Wednesday, but it did not cause any damage.

Grose said he “fully” expects those attending the meeting to call for his resignation from the City Council for forwarding a depiction of a watermelon patch superimposed on the front lawn of the White House to a small group of people. The e-mail bore the headline “No Easter egg hunt this year.”


”I’ve issued my statement,” Grose said. “I believe the matter’s closed.”

Grose told CBS2 he did not believe it was necessary to resign from the council seat he was elected to in 2006. Grose’s fellow City Council members chose him for a one-year term as mayor in January.

The e-mail garnered national media interest after it was first reported by The Orange County Register Tuesday night and prompted current and former city officials to defend the city.

Former Mayor Ken Parker told NBC4 that “the best thing for him to do would be to step down from the council entirely so that the people of America can see this is really not what Los Alamitos is about.”

Los Alamitos Interim City Manager Nita McKay said in a statement issued late Thursday that the e-mail “is not representative of our City Council, city staff and the community as a whole.”

“We pride ourselves in offering unwavering professional service to all community members who live, work and conduct business in Los Alamitos,” McKay said. “We certainly do not condone perpetuating any stereotype associated with race, ethnicity, gender or religion.”

City employees told NBC4 Friday there have been at least 500 calls to City Hall, with some calling Grose insensitive and others saying the issue is overblown.

In his resignation announcement, which was distributed by e-mail Thursday night, Grose said, “The attention brought to this matter has sadly created an image of me which is most unfortunate … I recognize that I’ve made a mistake and have taken steps to make sure 
this is never repeated,” he said.

Grose said he has sought counsel from the Orange County Human Relations Commission “to acquire greater sensitivity following this incident.”

Zalen Liley, a chemist who is black and whose office is across from Grose’s medical equipment business, told NBC4 that he cannot understand how Grose could make such a serious misstep. 
  

“It’s pretty idiotic for a public official to do something like that,” Liley said. “You’d think he’d use more caution, you know, better judgment.”

Grose told CBS2 he “chuckled on it because I’m interested in how they’re going to dye the watermelons and use those on the lawn for the 
traditional Easter egg roll that they do.”

“The question was asked of me, `Do you not think that’s a racist thing?’ I said no. I think we’ve gone way beyond that in this country.”

Grose told CBS2 that he did not recall sending the e-mail to Keyanus Price, a black community volunteer.

Price said she found it racist and offensive and sought an apology.

Price and Grose are members of a youth center board. In a statement released Thursday, Grose said he and Price had exchanged “e-mail jokes in the past and it was never my intention to cause any discomfort or embarrassment for Ms. Price. I am truly sorry.”

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