East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo is facing heavy criticism for controversial comments made after four police officers were charged for using excessive force against undocumented immigrants and covering up abuses.
In a broadcast interview, New York City-based WPIX reporter Mario Diaz asked Maturo: "What are you going to do for the Latino community today?" And with one hand on his hip Maturo quite proudly responded: "I might have tacos when I go home, I'm not quite sure yet."
You can't make this stuff up.
Diaz even gives Maturo a chance to redeem himself, by saying, "You realize that isn't the comment to say right now, right?"
That's when the interview got a bit, shall we say, ugly, and continued for about another four minutes.
Maturo added: "When you ask me what I would do for Latinos, I may go out and have a Latino dinner in the Latino community. There's nothing wrong with that and you can twist it and turn it whichever way the press decides to do!"
According to Diaz's report, Maturo approached him and apologized for his remarks.
The Latino community in East Haven, according to the Census, make up 10.3% of the town's population.
Yet out of a police force of 50, only one speaks Spanish, and government officials, along with one community resident, informed PIX 11 that he is not even Latino.
Police treatment of Hispanics in East Haven, has been under federal scrutiny since 2009, when the U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil rights probe that found a pattern of discrimination and biased policing.
This morning, Governor Dannel Malloy released a public statement regarding East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo's "racially insensitive comments" calling them "repugnant" and "unacceptable."
"The comments by East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo are repugnant. They represent either a horrible lack of judgment or worse, an underlying insensitivity to our Latino community that is unacceptable. Being tired is no excuse. He owes an apology to the community, and more importantly, he needs to show what he’s going to do to repair the damage he’s done. And he needs to do it today."
This morning, Maturo was interviewed on WPLR-FM's Chaz and AJ morning show and said, "It was stupid, it was insensitive and I gave my detractors... a reason to make matters worse with a `gotcha' and an insensitive and stupid answer to something I should have never said."
Maturo said the radio interview would be the first and only interview he would give today. "I think I got myself in enough hot water yesterday," he said to WPLR-FM's Chaz and AJ morning show.
This past December, HuffPost reported that the Department of Justice condemned the East Haven Police Department for rampant discrimination against Latinos in the fourteenth amendment. The mayor of the town, Joseph Maturo, fired back that the report was both "slanderous" and "political."
Maturo has a history of controversial behavior.
Back in November, he returned to office and as one of his first duties as mayor, he reinstated Connecticut Police Chief, Chief Leonard Gallo, despite FBI probe on claims for harassing Hispanic residents because he "did not believe the allegations were true."
According to Diaz's report, Los Amigos Grocery Store owner Luis Rodriguez came to the United States 19 years ago in search of the American dream. But as he found out, in East Haven, the dream was at times a nightmare.
"The harshest form of intimidation came from officer Spaulding. He ripped my license in front of me while my car was parked. I wasn't even driving," Rodriguez told PIX 11 News.
About an hour ago, an "East Haven Taxpayers Calling For Mayor Maturo to Resign" Facebook page was created. The page says:
Be aware, if you feel this is a place to make rude/inflamatory or racist comments or support our mayor in any way, your comments will be deleted. This is a page for those who want Mayor Maturo out because he doesn't represent the majority of the good people of our town and is a horrible example of bad leadership to the children of our town. If you continue to post inflammatory or off topic posts, you will be banned. Our page, our rules.
Earlier today, Mayor Joseph Maturo, Jr., of East Haven, Connecticut, released the following statement via his Facebook page:
"My sincerest apologies go out to the East Haven community and, in particular, the Latino community for the insensitive and off-collar comment that I made to WPIX reporter Mario Diaz yesterday regarding the recent events affecting our community and our police department. Unfortunately, I let the stress of the situation get the best of me and inflamed what is already a serious and unfortunate situation. I regret my insensitive comment and realize that it is my job to lead by example.
Our community needs to refocus on healing together. To date, my administration has already taken steps to begin that healing process. Most recently, I commissioned a new advisory committee to the Mayor named "LEARN" (Law Enforcement Advisory Resource Network) aimed at recommending updates to policies and procedures to the Board of Police Commissioners. Recognizing the need for the Latino community to have a voice on this exciting and important new board, I appointed Jose Velasquez, a well-respected community volunteer and native of Puerto Rico, to the board. The first products of that committee have been a new mission statement for our Police Department, a more accessible civilian complaint procedure, and the publishing of updated civilian complaint forms in both English and Spanish.
I recognize that this new board is just the first of many steps that must be taken to heal our community. I apologize, again, for my insensitive comments yesterday and recognize that they are a hindrance to the progress that must be made in our community. I am dedicated to the principles of tolerance and acceptance of all and will do all that I can to foster those principles in the daily execution of my duties as Mayor. I ask this community to have faith in me and in our community as we address the challenges arising out of the past days’ events."
For additional information, please contact the East Haven Mayor’s office at 203-468-3204.
CNN's reporter Jason Carroll confronted an upset Maturo on his statement that was released this afternoon, according to Mediaita.com. Carroll pressed the issue and the exchange went as follows:
"Just tell us, do you think the apology would be enough?" grilled Carroll. "I think that would help."
"I certainly hope so," exclaimed Maturo. "I created something that went viral. It was something that the media says gotcha, and ran with it. I accept full responsibility. I have apologized profusely!"
"It would be helpful if you at least tried to explain what you were trying to say about the Latino community?" Caroll continued. "That's what I'm saying."
"There dare I go getting myself in trouble again!" Maturo dodged.
"What were you trying to say?" Carroll pressed.
"All I meant was I don’t feel bad going into any community -- I didn’t feel persecuted by what happened in our town prior to that, so by going into another section -- that's all it meant, is that I could go into a different section of the community and have a bite to eat. I didn't feel -- I didn't feel as though I was being for our town was being discriminatory or that I was — I wasn't afraid to talk to or be in the company of anybody."
WATCH MAYOR MATURO CLARIFY FOR HIS STATEMENT: