Mayor Apologizes for “Taco” Comment

East Haven's Mayor made the comment after the arrest of 4 officers.

East Haven Mayor Joe Maturo gave more than a dozen interviews to reporters after four East Haven police officers were arrested Tuesday, accused of harassing and intimidating members of the Latino community.

In one interview, however, Maturo might have inflamed the situation and, on Wednesday, he issued an apology.

When asked how he would reach out to the Latino community that night, he responded that he might go get tacos.

Maturo said on Tuesday that he regrets if he offended anyone and admitted it might have been a poor choice of words.  

"The question that was asked, 'what are you going to do tonight?' was not, like I said, an in-depth question," said Maturo.  "I did not give an in-depth answer."

After making the statement, Maturo went on:

"I might have spaghetti tonight, being of Italian descent. I've had ethnic food, and when you asked me what I was doing for Latinos tonight, I may go out and have a Latino dinner in the Latino community. There is nothing wrong with that," Maturo said.

He did, however, accuse reporters of focusing too much on his statement."To say we got the mayor in a gotcha, if that's what the press wants to do, I don't think they're helping the situation," Maturo said.

Gov. Dannel Malloy called the statement "racially insensitive." 

“The comments by East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo are repugnant.  They represent either a horrible lack of judgment or worse, an underlying insensitivity to our Latino community that is unacceptable.  Being tired is no excuse.  He owes an apology to the community, and more importantly, he needs to show what he’s going to do to repair the damage he’s done.  And he needs to do it today.”Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra also issued a statement, saying he was "disgusted" by Maturo's remarks. 

"As both a Latino and as Chief Elected Official of Connecticut’s Capital City, I am disgusted by Mayor Maturo’s comments. As Mayor, I stand strongly behind the men and women who protect and serve our City and encourage our residents to work as partners toward the best interests of our communities. That cannot happen if accusations of egregious discrimination are dismissed and disregarded. Many have worked diligently to correct the painful history of racism in this country, and Mayor Maturo’s comments are a disappointing example of how far we still have to go to," Segarra said.

Maturo released the following statement: 

“My sincerest apologies go out to the East Haven community and, in particular, the Latino community for the insensitive and off-collar comment that I made to WPIX reporter Mario Diaz yesterday regarding the recent events affecting our community and our police department.

Unfortunately, I let the stress of the situation get the best of me and inflamed what is already a serious and unfortunate situation.  I regret my insensitive comment and realize that it is my job to lead by example.  

Our community needs to refocus on healing together.  To date, my administration has already taken steps to begin that healing process. Most recently, I commissioned a new advisory committee to the Mayor named “LEARN” (Law Enforcement Advisory Resource Network) aimed at recommending updates to policies and procedures to the Board of Police Commissioners.  Recognizing the need for the Latino community to have a voice on this exciting and important new board, I appointed Jose Velasquez, a well-respected community volunteer and native of Puerto Rico, to the board.  The first products of that committee have been a new mission statement for our Police Department, a more accessible civilian complaint procedure, and the publishing of updated civilian complaint forms in both English and Spanish.  

I recognize that this new board is just the first of many steps that must be taken to heal our community.  I apologize, again, for my insensitive comments yesterday and recognize that they are a hindrance to the progress that must be made in our community.  I am dedicated to the principles of tolerance and acceptance of all and will do all that I can to foster those principles in the daily execution of my duties as Mayor.  I ask this community to have faith in me and in our community as we address the challenges arising out of the past days’ events.” 

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