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Accusations of Racism in Peekskill Get Uglier

A taped customer service training session has led to harsh accusations of racism that city officials say are unfounded and untrue.

A recording of a city "customer service" training session aired via DVD before the Peekskill Common Council has become the indirect source of harsh racist accusations, hurt and anger.

The DVD was a recording of a training session held May 5 in the Peekskill City Hall Conference room with 23 city employees participating, said City Manager Rick Finn. The training session was supposed to help city workers interact with people of all different cultures and backgrounds. 

But now Finn has become the center of a firestorm over the training. Mount Vernon activist and Peekskill political critic Darrell Davis announced on a New Rochelle WVOX radio show that Finn had made a racist remark during the training, something Finn says is completely untrue.

Finn says he never said anything racist and is supported by Mayor Mary Foster, who says she saw the tape and it never happened.

“I am offended by (Davis’) comments and there is absolutely no truth to it and it is unfortunate he has to go down this path,” Finn said. “I treat all people fairly, equally, and with dignity.” Finn added that he may pursue legal action on the personal attacks made against him. “To be called a racist, in my opinion, is one of the worst things someone can be called.”

Davis acknowledges he has not seen the recording, but told Patch that six different individuals called him to tell him they were upset over what they claimed Finn said during the May 5 training session. Davis said all six people were in the room during the time of the training and a few of them gave their names, while the others told him they wanted to remain anonymous. Davis would not provide Patch with any names.

Patch has filed a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the tape. 

Based on the accounts Davis says he heard, he summarizes the incident this way:

“Basically, the facilitator asked, ‘How do you deal with an angry audience’ and said to be amicable,” Davis told Patch. “Finn replied, ‘Even if its an African-American audience? Do you think they can understand that?”

Davis says the fact he went public shows he's certain it happened as he describes.

“For me to go on a radio show and make that accusation without being damn sure I knew what he said — my neck is on the line,” Davis said. He has also requested a copy of the DVD from City Hall.

During his appearance on WVOX on May 12, Davis told the radio host Phil Reisman, “I am calling for Mayor Foster to fire (Finn) immediately if he does not resign.”

During the Council's May 16 executive session, city lawmakers watched the snippet of the recording where Finn was supposed to have said something racist, Finn told Patch. After viewing the video, the mayor said the comments that Davis has made are “untrue.” 

“This is unfortunate because we have so much work to do and things like this become a setback,” the mayor said.

The training session was taped for internal use, intended to be shown to participants who may have had to miss a session. The recording will not be made public Finn said, as it shows an internal training session and all participants were told that the recordings would not be used for any other purpose.

The city is no longer taping such sessions.

Flowers Bloom May 24, 2011 at 04:19 AM
Oh! Please, I'm sure I speak for many others that this should come as no surprise. Rascism is the comfort zone for many, especially if they feel threatened by others, I have yet, to get a person who's mouth doesn't drop or someone who just doesn't stare, becuz its rude, when I speak, and yes, my looks don't match with the way I talk. I am Native American and Spainard, born on a reservation in the Southwest, and later raised in Texas and the rest is history. I have tried to make friends and I thought at least I had a chance with those of similar backgrounds, and I have had no luck. What eats me is that I come from where hospitality is a way of life, and I ended up here becuz I was in the Military, risking my life for others, no matter their race or how they spoke. I want y'all to know that when my unit found out that some of us were coming to NY, we were told get ready for the cold shoulders and rudeness, and I said it can't be that bad, but boy was I wrong! I was told its the diversity, the race to stay on top, on whos who. I don't know about anybody else but when I was being brought up I was told that almost everyone came from someone who was an immigrant and it shouldn't matter where you were born , remember your roots. I know I do, I am here becuz a Native American fell inlove with a Spainard and if no one can see the beauty in that well good luck being an ignorant A----S---S, by the way, know where I can find any Native Americans, I believe this calls for a PoW WoW!
yao cunningham May 26, 2011 at 04:16 PM
Show the tape, this will quell all speculation.........The more you supress the more unrest!
James April 25, 2013 at 12:01 AM
Hi I was watching the Common council Meetings online for 2 years. Many people feel the mayor is Racism. I do not understand where the racism started. Are people saying she is because the mayor will not fire the housing authority director? That is not racism for not firing person. It is different story if she did fire him for the color of his skin.
James April 25, 2013 at 12:02 AM
I am not from Peekskill I Watch the meetings online. I wanted know how the racisim Started and when
Teleman April 25, 2013 at 12:40 AM
And to think, we were told electing a black president would quell racism once and for all in our nation- the nonsensical rhetoric had just gotten worse.

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