Bailey apologizes, defends record

Published 11:13 am Wednesday, May 22, 2013


ISLE OF WIGHT—An Isle of Wight County supervisor has refused a second demand to resign, despite a recent remark and controversial emails connected to him.

Vice Chairman Byron “Buzz” Bailey of the Newport District refused Chairwoman JoAnn Hall’s formal request on Monday he leave office.

She did so right after the board came out of a closed session that began the start of a scheduled budget work session. Hall said in retrospect she regrets any part she had in recent events, and believes that in order for the county to move forward it would be best for Bailey to step down.

In turn, he read a prepared letter of apology, which can be read here. For starters,

“I just wanted to write a letter of explanation and apologize to every person who was offended by my reference to: “Save your Confederate money, the South will rise again” and a couple of emails forwarded (not originated) by me. All these email jokes were hurtful in retrospect and I am sorry.”

Bailey goes onto point out how he’s been a friend and ally to the African-American community. He said neither Hall nor County Attorney Mark Popovitch, both recipients of some of the emails, has contacted him, and then concludes he’s not resigning:

“I think I have done a good job by holding down taxes and expenses and will continue my efforts for all concerned for the rest of my term.”

To that he told the audience, “I choose not to resign,” adding that other board members and people have pleaded with him not to step down.

“This conservative person is going to stay. Again, I am sorry about the ugly emails.”

The comment on printing money, and emails of crude humor he helped circulate as recently as March, are why Dottie Harris first called on Bailey to step down. This occurred during the public comment portion of last Thursday’s regular board meeting. He was not present due to an already scheduled absence.

Harris, who is president of the Isle of Wight County Chapter of the NAACP, said then she thought a remark he made on May 13 was “deeply hurtful to us,” referring to African-Americans in the county.

Bailey’s comment came during that budget work session. After hearing yet another department requesting more money for next year’s budget, he said, at one point, “I guess we could be like Washington and print some money here in Isle of Wight County. Save the Confederate money; the South will rise again.”

Although many people in attendance laughed in response, School Superintendent Katrise Perera reportedly left after hearing the comment.

Harris was given a copy of the letter Bailey wrote soon after to the school board explaining his remark “was a joke. It was meant to emphasize that IOW County was a short of money as the Confederacy.”

He continued by apologizing to Perera and anyone else who was offended by the comment.

Harris said she didn’t see the humor in it, and wasn’t convinced of Bailey’s sincerity in the letter. Nor was she amused by a printout of privately sent emails featuring crude humor. Most of them, which could be regarded as offensive, are about President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama.

The printout was first sent last Thursday to school board member Denise Tynes of the Smithfield District, who received them anonymously in her mail.

Harris pointed out Bailey’s personal e-mail address is shown as a circulating source to the private emails of other supervisors and county staff. School board member Herb DeGroft of the Hardy District is also listed as someone who passed along the emails. For that reason, the board has called on DeGroft to also resign. (See sidebar).

In response to Bailey’s open letter on Monday, Harris said, “In my opinion the apology was politics. I don’t feel that it was sincere, but superficial. I would hope that he would resign.”

She added that as chapter president she’ll have to call the state chapter or national headquarters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“It’s a discriminatory issue. I’m not going to let it go. I will do what I have to do,” Harris said.