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'Fallible' former Stuart mayor Eula Clarke apologizes for offensive comments

Posted at 11:04 PM, Feb 27, 2017
and last updated 2019-03-25 18:08:34-04

Former Stuart Mayor Eula Clarke says she is deeply sorry for racially charged comments she made offending multiple city employees.

Clarke resigned as mayor, retaining a seat as commissioner, after a Stuart Police Officer complained to the police union that she referred to him as a ‘pig’ in a local grocery store.

An independent investigator was hired by the city to assure Clarke did not have a history of making offensive comments, or violate city personnel policies.

The investigation found other racially charged complaints, several centering around the Stuart police chief.

The investigator stated in a final report that the police chief, a white man, adopted a black child. The report states she called the adoption a ‘social experiment’, and told him that he should find a black woman to serve as a role model for the child.

The report continued that she also asked the chief at one point, “How many black men have your officers shot today?”

Additional complaints came from a white employee married to a black man for some time. Clarke is accused of telling them interracial relationships never last, “but we’ll see.”

In a letter sent to Stuart city leaders Monday, Clarke said she was deeply sorry and bears full responsibility for her words.

She also said she will be taking Sensitivity and Diversity Awareness Training.

City commissioners Monday voted to accept the findings of the investigation for the record. 

Several people spoke for and against Clarke.

“People call names, we all call names. This blew into something so outrageous,” said Stuart resident Caryn Yost-Rudge. “She was our best commissioner in the uniting of the community.”

Other residents, like Helen McBride, say they are deeply offended by her comments. McBride has family in law enforcement, and a black grandchild.

“I personally feel if she’s making these comments, she truly feels this way,” McBride said. “I was a great supporter of yours but I’m not anymore.”

Mayor Tom Campenni said a new Code of Ethics will likely be drafted soon for elected officials in the city.

The investigator found Clarke’s actions would have violated harassment policies and professionalism in the workplace rules if she were required to abide by city personnel policies.

The investigator determined she did not violate any city personnel policies because elected officials are not required to abide by the same rules.

“I think we need to be held to a code of ethics,” Campenni said Monday.

Campenni hopes to begin the code of ethics discussion in the next month.

Read the letter Clarke sent to Stuart city leaders: 

February 27, 2017

To: Mr. Michael Martell, City Attorney and Mr. Paul Nicoletti, City Manager For Distribution to Interested Parties

From: Eula R. Clarke, Commissioner Re: Investigative Report

Let me take this opportunity to address the Robert Norton Report.

I did not participate in Mr. Norton's investigation for all the reasons stated by my attorney, but also because I did not want to deter any City of Stuart employee from airing any concerns they may have regarding my interactions with them.

After digesting the report, it is clear to me that I have said some things which have caused our city's employees true distress. I am well aware of the power of words. My words hurt city employees who expressed themselves in the report as well as those not included in the interviews. Unfortunately, I cannot take back those words and I sincerely and deeply apologize. I bear full responsibility for my words.

Words shape people's perception. It is said that "Your Perception is your Reality". Among others, my words were an offensive reality to Officer Fitzgerald, a community police officer who has worked hard to build a strong, positive relationship with the community.

Mr. Norton's report tells us that my perceptions land those of some of the people with whom I interact at the city are undoubtedly not the same.

I am a fallible human being. My comments were offensive, no excuses.

I have to make a change for the better. I want to birth a better future as I carefully choose my words each and every day. I will be enrolling myself in a Sensitivity and Diversity Awareness Workshop/Training be arranged through the City Manager and our Human Resources Department. This will help me to become a better public leader for this community. I will make every effort to address my personal shortcomings. I will work very hard at doing just that.

Thank you for this opportunity,

Eula R. Clarke
cc. F. Sheilds McManus, Attorney at Law