CA: VICE MAYOR: 'I MADE A HUGE MISTAKE'
Ed Sileo, the city's recently re-elected vice mayor, on Monday admitted to sending an e-mail that was bound to offend Muslim people, then lying to cover it up.
The e-mail contained an offhand jibe that was a partial response to a recruitment e-mail to sign up volunteers for an emergency services drill that would train people to respond to an event like a bio-terror attack.
Sileo said he was joking around with some friends Thursday when he typed into his Blackberry personal data device, "Maybe my friends Muhammed, Omar and Khalid will volunteer."
The vice mayor misspelled the common accepted spelling for Mohammed in his e-mail prank.
He said he intended to erase the offensive jibe. Instead of erasing it, Sileo pressed send to all, passing the message on to a range of fellow community leaders, including staff for Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, leadership of the local United Way and Darren Parker, who heads up the county-directed Antelope Valley Human Relations Task Force.
"I made a huge mistake," Sileo said Monday.
"While sending it was an accident, it doesn't excuse the fact that I was even joking in that matter," Sileo said. "When I realized I did that I was embarrassed and shameful."
At that point, Sileo soon after sent out an apology message saying that the first note was a very poor attempt at a practical joke by someone who borrowed his phone and typed the message.
That turned out to be untrue.
The message of apology said: "To all who may have received the last e-mail sent from this Blackberry device: unfortunately, an acquaintance was joking around with my phone and accidently sent out an extremely rude and what I feel is a racially offensive message," Sileo wrote Thursday in the second Blackberry message transmission.
"For that I apologize profusely. In no way does this represent what I believe or would say," Sileo communicated with his audience in cyberspace. Sileo admitted Monday this apology was an untruth, and that it represented nothing more than a panicked response to his own reckless action.
"I'm apologetic and embarrassed for sending the e-mail out, and then trying to cover it up," Sileo said to the Antelope Valley Press on Monday. "It was immature and not the example of what we expect from an elected official," he said.
Sileo said he is not only seeking forgiveness from the people who received the e-mail, but from the entire community, particularly members of the Muslim community bound to be offended by the off-hand remark.
"I have to ask for forgiveness from all of my constituents for my failure to exercise good and reasonable judgement," Sileo said.
Darren Parker, chairman of the Human Relations Task Force received Sileo's original message as well as the apology and forwarded both to Chaplain Abdul-Wahab Omeira of the North Valley Islamic Center. "Unfortunately this shows the true lack of leadership this man possesses with regards to representing the diverse community of the Antelope Valley," Omeira said in an e-mail Sunday morning. . .
"I do appreciate Councilman Ed Sileo's brave remarks in admitting what he did. It shows great character," Omeira said Monday. "The Muslim community at large doesn't want to be victims of stereotyping, and I'm thankful that he offered his remorse."
Sileo said he is looking for ways to reach the Muslim community to apologize and establish trust with them.
Omeira said Sileo is invited to the Islamic Center's Sept. 11th remembrance night and he hopes the vice mayor will attend.
"We would be honored if he would come to the mosque for a tour and we'd be happy to answer any questions he has about our faith," Omeira said.