County Worker Jedd Bogenschutz Forced To Publicly Apologize For Racist, Bullying Email
Linnaea Mendoza was trying to raise financing for her family's new salsa business online, when she received an irate email, including threats and a racial slur, from a Salt Lake County employee, reported local station KTVX-TV. The government worker will be keeping his job, but he was forced to make a public apology.
A year ago, Mendoza and her husband Sergio (both pictured above) were struggling financially. So they decided to turn their respective Italian and Mexican heritages into the perfect condiment. And it was a hit. Residents in the vicinity of their Sandy City, Utah, home can now find Salsitas Mendoza salsa in several stores and farmers markets.
There was just one problem. Without a $12,000 commercial-kitchen hood, they couldn't make enough to meet demand. The Mendozas tried to raise funds on Kickstarter, and also posted an ad on a website for charity listings.
The ad riled up Jedd Bogenschutz, a 25-year employee of the Salt Lake County Assessor's Office, who then sent Mendoza an uncensored email from his government email address:
Mendoza says she was less disturbed by the racist connotation of "south of the borders," than by the implication that a government employee could abuse his power to hurt her.
"How far is there a hatred? How far would it go?" she told KTVX-TV. "Will you try to revoke my licenses that I worked so hard for? Will you try to damage my business that's new? You know, we're all in on this. This is everything to my family."
In response, Salt Lake County Assessor Lee Gardner told KTVX-TV that his office did not tolerate bigotry or intimidation from government employees. Bogenschutz wouldn't lose his job, he said, but he would be severely disciplined in a way that was "in no way shape or form ... a slap on the wrist."
Bogenschutz did as told, explaining that he didn't think the Mendozas' desire to finish their kitchen qualified as a charitable cause, and sent the email on impulse. "To be honest, not in a million years would I have thought I would have done something so insensitive," he said. "I always felt myself as being an open-minded person willing to accept people's differences as my own, as well, and I'm just absolutely embarrassed."
He also said that he would be apologizing to the Mendozas personally, and the couple claimed they were satisfied. They had no interest, they told KTVX-TV, in causing "any long term damage to his family, just as I didn't want his comments to cause any long-term damage to my family via my business."
On the Salsitas Mendoza Facebook page, Linnaea Mendoza thanked the community for the outpouring of support, focusing on the racial aspect of Bogenschutz's words.
"I feel so blessed when I see how many people stood up to help get the word out about how non-tolerant we are as a community to racism and bullies alike.... I feel truly sorry for anyone willing to miss out on so many beautiful people solely due to the color on their skin or land they were born to."
"As for Sergio and I," she continued, "we would love to get back to the farmers markets where we belong."
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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