According to a complaint by the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association (PBA), which represents Stuart Police officers, the mayor entered a local convenience store, saw Officer Edward Fitzgerald speaking with an employee, and said: “I didn’t know we were serving pig tonight.”
“No City of Stuart employee should be subjected to verbal harassment or demeaning comments by one of the City’s elected officials,” the complaint stated.
“We’re outraged,” PBA president John Kazanjian said, calling the mayor’s remark “just a slap in the face…we don’t need someone like that as a public servant.”
Mayor Clarke has repeatedly apologized for the incident, including sending a formal letter to Kazanjian in which she confessed: “I am so sorry for this entire event.”
“My choice of words, and my speech, was patently offensive, and I would hope that Ofc. Fitzgerald, and all law enforcement officers will forgive me for this transgression,” the mayor wrote.
“All law enforcement officers are very important to me, and to the City of Stuart. We owe them a great debt of gratitude,” she continued.
But the four Stuart City Commission members who elected Clarke to serve as mayor in September 2016 say they doubt her sincerity.
The commission consists of five officials, including Mayor Clarke. Since Clarke has not stepped down as mayor of her own volition, the commissioners will likely vote on Wednesday to relieve her of her duties, according to TCPalm.
Commissioner Troy McDonald said he was unconvinced by Clarke’s explanation that she uses the word “pig” when “referring to certain meat products.”
“At the same time you were apologizing,” McDonald noted, “you started to try to back off and say, ‘Well I was talking about pork products’…which makes me question your sincerity at this point.”
Commissioner Kelli Glass-Leighton also issued a statement saying, “As the wife of a law enforcement officer, I take extreme offense and disgust with the mayor’s words and action.
“I don’t believe an apology is enough. We as a city need to heal and move forward. Mayor Clarke, I do firmly believe you need to resign as a city commissioner immediately.”
However, Stuart’s citizens have taken both sides of the controversy, with some condemning and others defending Clarke.
Local business owner Trina Lange believes that Clarke “should step down as mayor.
“Our mayor represents our town,” Lange told the TCPalm. “I don’t want to be seen as representing that.”
But Stuart resident Thelma Washington defended Clarke, pointing to her record of public service.
“To many here, Clarke has been a champion for the neighborhood,” Washington said, noting that Clarke “reads to students at the child-care center” and “gives free legal advice to divorced fathers who often are kept away from their children by their mothers.”