Saturday, March 20, 2010
Commissioner Never Should Have Hit 'Send'
By Thomas J. Cole
Journal Staff Writer
It's supposed to be a joke. You be the judge. Here goes:
"In a recent survey requested by President Obama, African-Americans have proved to be the most likely to have sex in the shower!
"In the survey, carried out for him by a leading toiletries firm, a huge majority, 86 percent, of African-Americans said that they have enjoyed sex in the shower.
"The other 14 percent said they hadn't been to prison yet."
Here's the punch line: Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Wiener sent this to the government e-mail accounts of county jail chief Ron Torres and County Manager Thaddeus Lucero.
Wiener sent the joke — titled "Sex in the Shower" — from a private e-mail account last September, but I just obtained a copy.
In addition to the government e-mail accounts of Torres and Lucero, the commissioner sent the joke to some of his fellow collectors of motor vehicle license plates.
Torres and Lucero said they didn't recall receiving the e-mail, but after reviewing a copy I provided, they said they considered it inappropriate.
When he was reached by telephone Thursday, priority No. 1 for Wiener was finding out how I got a copy of the e-mail. (I wouldn't tell him, of course.) Priority No. 2 was an apology.
The commissioner said he didn't recall sending the e-mail but said he probably sent the joke to Torres and Lucero because of the jailhouse sex angle. But he added, "We certainly don't condone that type of behavior in the jail."
Wiener said he didn't view the joke as racist but could see how someone could interpret it that way. He called the e-mail "very unfortunate" and said he was "very sorry."
"Looking back, it's probably something I should haven't done," he said. "If someone is offended, then I am very apologetic. ... I don't have a racist bone in my body."
Torres said he didn't recall receiving the e-mail. "If I opened it, it would have been closed immediately, probably deleted," he said.
After reviewing a copy of the e-mail, he said he didn't think it was funny. He said that people often approach him with jailhouse jokes and that he isn't interested anymore in such humor.
He said Wiener occasionally e-mails him humorous material but mostly of a political nature. "You can't keep people from sending things," Torres said.
Lucero was out of town, but a spokeswoman said he didn't recall receiving the e-mail from Wiener.
"After reviewing this e-mail, I find it highly inappropriate and I have advised Commissioner Wiener that e-mails of this nature violate the county Internet and e-mail policy," Lucero said in a statement provided by the spokeswoman.
Wiener said he forwarded the joke to Torres, Lucero and the others after receiving it from a friend in Israel.
The friend, if his home page on the social networking Web site Facebook is any indication, has a fondness for photos and video of naked women.
There are a few different versions of the joke circulating on the Internet. In other versions, residents of Chicago or Detroit are the ones who are the targets of the joke.
Wiener has been in hot water before for his use of e-mail.
While running for the County Commission in 2008, he contacted 22 county employees through their government e-mail accounts to solicit campaign donations.
Wiener said at the time that he didn't recall how he got the county e-mail addresses and said he had "never pressured anybody on anything."
He said he was simply issuing an invitation to the county employees to attend a fund-raiser. "They're private citizens when they get off work," he said.
Wiener represents District 4 on the Bernalillo County Commission. The district covers much of the Northeast Heights and West Side, stretching across a northern swath of the county.
A Republican, he is a former state senator and city councilor.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Thom Cole can be reached in Santa Fe at (505) 992-6280 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.