Connecticut 'Taco' Mayor Rebuked by Commission

The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities has joined the long line of critics of East Haven Mayor Joseph A. Maturo Jr. for an off-hand remark he made that offended Latinos.

The commission said Tuesday it unanimously approved a resolution condemning Maturo for saying last month he might have tacos as a way to do something for the community.

The Republican mayor made the remark in response to a reporter's question after the arrests of four police officers on charges they harassed Latino residents and businesses. An FBI official called the police charged with harassment as "bullies with badges." Maturo received criticism from all quarters, including Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

The mayor's office received prank phone calls and a delivery of hundreds of tacos after his now-famous quip. Many called Maturo's resignation. 

Maturo's comment left emotions raw in the town's large Hispanic community, especially since it came on the heels of the police harassment scandal.

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"The Latino community is upset and deeply wounded in what should have been a day of redemption for them," the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission's acting executive director, Werner Oyandel, said in a written statement, calling the comment "unprofessional and given in poor taste."

The commission voted Feb. 8 to approve a resolution saying Maturo demonstrated a lack of sensitivity to the Latino community.

The Republican mayor has apologized. His spokesman Frank Gentilesco says the taco comment is old news.

The four officers have pleaded not guilty.

"The events of the past few days have focused our Town, and my administration, on the need to deal sensitively and compassionately with the challenges currently facing our Town," Maturo said after the outcry over his remark.

He has called himself a "jerk" for the comment, which he called an off-the-cuff quip made at the end of a long, stressful day of interviews.

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Maturo has been mayor off and on since 1997 in this predominantly white, blue-collar town on the shore of Long Island Sound where Latino residents comprise about 10 percent of its population of 29,000. East Haven has been under federal scrutiny since the U.S. Justice Department launched a civil rights probe in 2009 that found discrimination and biased policing against Latinos.

A federal indictment accuses the four police officers of assaulting people while they were handcuffed, unlawfully searching Latino businesses, and harassing and intimidating people, including advocates, witnesses and other officers who tried to investigate or report misconduct or abuse.

This story contains material from The Associated Press.

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