California councilman's racist e-mails raise conduct questions

The Merced Sun-StarJuly 17, 2009 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article uses language that is offensive but necessary to show a pattern of conduct by an Atwater city councilman.

ATWATER — In the past several months Atwater California City Councilman Gary Frago has sent at least a half-dozen e-mails to city staff and other prominent community members containing racist jokes aimed at President Barack Obama, his wife and black people in general.

In all, the Sun-Star obtained seven e-mails that Frago sent from October 2008 to February 2009 from an anonymous source.

Some compared Obama to O.J. Simpson while others suggested that "nigger rigs" should now be called "presidential solutions."

Perhaps the most overboard e-mail was sent on Jan. 15. It read: "Breaking News Playboy just offered Sarah Palin $1 million to pose nude in the January issue. Michelle Obama got the same offer from National Geographic."

Frago admitted sending the e-mails, but showed no regret. "If they're from me, then I sent them," he said. "I have no disrespect for the president or anybody, they weren't meant in any bad way or harm."

The list of people who either sent or received the e-mails reads like a who's who of Atwater community and political leadership, including a county supervisor, a former police chief, a city manager, a former city council member, a former president of a veterans group, a former grand knight of the Knights of Columbus, among others.

All the jokes that Frago sent originated from others, the e-mails show. Those who could be identified were Bob Rieger, a retired Atwater city works employee; Michael McIntyre, a Merced resident; and Lee Aldridge, a retired Air Force colonel in Alabama.

Most of the recipients said they do not recall receiving the e-mails and several of the senders either do not remember sending them or claim they were not meant to be harmful.

To read the complete article, visit www.mercedsunstar.com.

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