Two clerical workers at the City of Brookfield Fire Department could face disciplinary action after forwarding at work an email about President Barack Obama that the head of the Waukesha County NAACP said Friday was racially offensive.
The emailed photo and message, which have circulated in various online versions for a couple years, had a photo of a large block of coal being transported on an oversize trailer. The photo caption said an interstate was going to be closed because "they are hauling a 200-ton lump of coal so they can add Obama to Mount Rushmore."
Wilson said Friday that the email added: "They couldn't find a 200-ton piece of (expletive)."
"It was definitely racial and it was aimed at our president — saying they were going to chisel out of this coal a head of President Obama because they couldn’t find any other (expletive) to work with," Wilson said.
"Either you think it’s a joke or you believe it. Either way it was not a joking matter," she said. "People ought to have more respect for that office."
Wilson said she felt the employees involved should be reprimanded. "I don't think we're paying them to be sending emails around the office," she added.
Fire Chief Charlie Myers was on vacation and could not be reached Friday. Mayor Steve Ponto and City Human Resources Director Jim Zwerlein called the email regrettable and inappropriate. The two employees are being investigated for possible violation of the city's electronic use policies, they said.
"It's very unforunate," Ponto said. "It's certainly inappropriate. I'm sure there will be some sort of disciplinary action."
The email controversy came to light when a concerned citizen sent the fire employee's forwarded email to WISN TV, which contacted the fire chief and Wilson. Chief Myers told WISN that two employees had admitted to forwarding the email at work and were apologetic, according to WISN reporter Nick Bohr's report.
The matter is under investgation, Zwerlein said.
Preliminary information indicates that someone emailed the coal photo and message to a clerical employee's Fire Department email account. That employee forwarded it to another clerical worker, and it was forwarded to at least one person outside the Fire Department.
Ponto said he didn't know the workers' views on Obama or race or why they forwarded the email.
"Fortunately, at work I don’t get much of these dumb emails," Ponto said. "I think a lot of us at home get a lot of these stupid unsourced emails. It’s so easy to send things, sometimes people do it without thinking."
Ponto said elected officials are "subject to all kinds of criticisms but I really deplore it when it gets down to anything that involves the possibility of being a race-based comment. I think that’s uncalled for."
The mayor called the incident a "momentary lapse of judgment" that distracts "from the really good job that the Fire Department does overall."