Archive for Friday, September 7, 2007

Mayor offers to resign over risque e-mail

Vestal said decision is up to Tonganoxie citizens

September 7, 2007

Tonganoxie Mayor Mike Vestal admitted Friday afternoon to sending an e-mail containing the picture of a naked woman and a racist joke to several individuals. He offered to resign his position as mayor, if that is what citizens wish.

"Oh my god, oh my god. You've got to be kidding me. Oh, Lord have mercy," Vestal said this afternoon when a Journal-World reporter showed him a copy of the e-mail that was sent from his account.

The e-mail opened with the words, "Next Monday is National Female Breast Appreciation Day." It then showed a picture of a woman and her naked breasts. Underneath the picture were the words, "Beats the (expletive) out of Martin Luther King Day! Doesn't It?"

Vestal admitted to sending the e-mail on Aug. 31 from his account to a "couple of guys." He inadvertently sent it to a 6News reporter, and that is how the Journal-World obtained the e-mail.

Vestal apologized to Tonganoxie citizens for any embarrassment, and said the e-mail's content did not represent his beliefs.

"This is something I don't usually do," said Vestal, although he stopped short of saying this was the first time he had ever forwarded such an e-mail message. "I should have just deleted it.

"I apologize. I hope people will forgive me. I'm proud of what I do for the city. I don't know how I'm going to make it up to the people. It will never happen again.

"If the citizens want me to resign, I will resign. It was a bad error in judgment."

Tonganoxie Councilman Jim Truesdell said Friday that he was shocked by the e-mail.

"That's obviously wrong," Truesdell said of the e-mail's content. "But it is even worse that it mocks Martin Luther King Day and women. It is obviously distasteful."

Vestal -- who was elected in April -- works for an answering service that is owned by his wife. The service also has a contract with the city of Tonganoxie to function as the dispatch service for the Tonganoxie Police Department. Vestal sent the e-mail from a computer that he owns, and from an e-mail account that he pays for, he said. But it is the e-mail account that is listed as his official point of contact as the city's mayor.

Tonganoxie city employees are required to sign an agreement that prohibits employees from "knowingly communicate, download, or forward anything that might be construed as harassing, hostile or offensive based on ethnicity, race, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin."

Vestal said he never had seen the agreement before, and it was unclear whether he is subject to the agreement as either the city's mayor or an employee of a contractor that does business with the city.

Vestal said he did not know how many people he sent the e-mail to. The e-mail obtained by the Journal-World did not list the addresses of the recipients, but used a function that hid the addresses from view. Vestal also declined to say who sent him the e-mail, although he said that person was not involved in city government.

Truesdell said the community now would have to decide whether to stand behind its mayor. Truesdell said he was inclined to support Vestal, who he called a good leader that treated council members fairly.

"I would hate to see him resign or be removed from office. I think he has done a lot of good for the community. But it probably will be up to the people. I could see a lot of people objecting on a lot of different fronts to having someone like that in office.

"But I really don't think that is Mike Vestal. I don't think that is who he is."

Councilman Tom Putthoff declined to comment on the e-mail until he had a chance to discuss it with Vestal. Attempts to reach other council members were unsuccessful.

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