The San Bernardino Branch of the NAACP is calling on the City of San Bernardino to investigate a racial incident that occurred last week.
During the public comments section of a council meeting on Oct. 18, Amy Malone, a Black resident of San Bernardino was interrupted by racial slurs from a commenter who was viewing the meeting remotely.
The anonymous commenter told Malone to “go back to Africa” and called her the N-word. She was also called a “bitch.”
Malone was shocked by the comments and insisted that they be addressed immediately.
“You should apologize for what just happened,” said Malone to the city council members present.
The local branch of the NAACP also reacted to the incident, calling it “disgusting.”
“It is with a heavy heart that we must deal with racial insults being tossed at the Black community on 10/18/23 as they cautioned the mayor and council not to hire Mr. Charles Montoya as City Manager because of his public legal issues cause from being fired by the Mayor and Council from Avondale, Arizona,” wrote Chache Wright, NAACP San Bernardino Branch President.
“A letter signed by Mayor Kenneth N. Weise (Avondale, AZ) lists these five alleged reasons for Montoya termination. 1. Montoya did not live in Avondale as required by his employment contract. 2. Demanding funds from the city he was not entitled to according to his contract. 3. Failing to make timely payment on a loan he had borrowed against his retirement account. 4. Receiving tuition reimbursement payments beyond what his contract allowed. 5. Refusing to repay vehicle reimbursement funds that he was paid in error,” the NAACP statement continued.
Before she was interrupted, Malone was expressing her objections to the hiring of Montoya because of past misconduct and his questionable professional past. She was one of several residents who opposed his hiring because of his checkered employment history. According to some of the protestors, Montoya also has a history of filing lawsuits against previous employers.
According to news reports, Montoya clashed with Avondale board members and raised concerns about nepotism prior to his dismissal. He was terminated for not living within the city limits. However, his attorney argues that the city unlawfully terminated him without giving him adequate time to address the problem.
Montoya said he was fired out of spite. During an appearance at the meeting, he said he had no regrets about his decision. The case is currently proceeding to federal court.
Despite these concerns, the city council approved Montoya’s hiring. Montoya has previously worked as a city manager in California and Arizona.
A statement posted on the city’s website says that the official recording of the meeting has been edited to remove the offensive language.
“The racist comments made during the October 18, 2023, City Council meeting by individuals connected remotely through Zoom were offensive and unacceptable, and the City of San Bernardino condemns what happened in no uncertain terms,” according to the statement.
“The city apologizes to anyone who heard what was said. Our community will not tolerate this type of hateful language in our public meetings, or anywhere. The city is working to identify the individuals who made the comments. The City Clerk and her staff, along with our IT department, are working with the San Bernardino Police Department on this. We have identified all the IP addresses that were in the queue at the time and are working to identify those that were involved. SBPD is
investigating this as a violation of California Penal Code 403.”
The offensive comments are part of a phenomenon known as Zoom bombing, which gained prominence during the coronavirus pandemic when many groups and businesses were forced to conduct most meetings via the videoconferencing platform. When these meetings were not properly secured, unauthorized individuals could join the chat and make inappropriate comments.
The San Bernardino NAACP says it plans to file a formal request for an investigation into the hate incident and the hiring of the city manager with the city. It will also share that request with State Attorney General Rob Bonta and the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The NAACP Legal Redress Committee is currently in the process of compiling relevant information and plans to transmit this information to the appropriate authorities next week, accompanied by their official request,” Wright concluded.