“No intent to trigger hurt” within the San Jose Enterprise Group’s racist political advert, officers say

After an internal investigation, those in charge of the Silicon Valley Organization said the posting of a racist political advertisement on their website was the result of a lack of communication and was not an accountable one.

When the SVO released some results of an investigation today, it named Glenn Perkins as chairman of the board and said it was launching a national search for a new CEO. Perkins is President of the Executive Forum Silicon Valley, a management consultancy.

The full investigation report will be released in two weeks, officials said.

“Something was done wrong, but it’s time for us to go forward and fix it,” Perkins said, adding that he will reach out to current and past members to see what SVO can do better.

Jeff Moore, president of the NAACP in Silicon Valley, said the purpose of the investigation is to explain what happened, hold the SVO accountable, and have a conversation – not to sweep the matter under the rug.

“They’re sniffing at us like we don’t matter, and that’s where the whole problem lies in the structure of the system they have,” Moore said. “It is time to disband the entire organization and view any group or company that is part of the organization as hostile to color communities.”

The investigation revealed that those responsible for the publication of the advertisement had “no racist intent”, according to SVO board member Kevin Surace. “There was an approval process that wasn’t followed.”

Additionally, the investigation found that there was no evidence of intent to cause harm and that the web post was not approved by SVO supervisors, including former CEO Matt Mahood.

Officials said Mahood was unaware of the picture and had it removed immediately before subsequently resigning.

“There was a complete disruption in communication and process,” said Surace. “It was really a terrible mistake. Mistakes happen – I know that – but it doesn’t make it any better for the community. “

The ad appeared on the SVO website on October 27th with a picture of black men walking the tear gas-ridden streets of South Africa asking voters if they wanted to “sign up” for it.

The complaint related to the attitude of San Jose City Council candidate Jake Tonkel to police reform. The group supported Tonkel’s opponent, Councilor Dev Davis, who won the race.

“You know exactly what you did. They knew what their purpose was: to bring fear, ”said Moore. “I’m from the south and it was the same kind of advertisement I saw during the elections – misinformation that spreads fear in communities that the dark-skinned people are harming them or posing a threat to them.”

Davis denounced the picture, said she was ashamed of the group and donated $ 1,200 in campaign contributions from The SVO to the NAACP.

This image on the Silicon Valley Organization website caused controversy.

Surace said the SVO’s political action committee used third parties to create their website posts, but added, “We are not saying that the third party created the message or not. We say that the communication completely broke down … Obviously someone must have had the opportunity to post it. But in our organization many people have that. “

There were widespread failures after the post. Two days later, Mahood resigned from the group and dozens of prominent corporations and nonprofits resigned from SVO membership, resigned from the board, and parted ways with the business lobby. The SVO also disbanded its Political Action Committee the day before last week’s elections.

Darlene Tenes, founder of CasaQ, a Hispanic lifestyle company, was a member of the SVO a few years ago. While she is no longer a member, she recently joined the newly formed SVO Community Advisory Board.

“I came in because the chamber had to wake up,” said Tenes.

“It’s fabulous that they got rid of the PAC,” said Tenes. “We don’t need to be political among ourselves at this time in pandemic history as all of the small and medium-sized businesses are hurt so badly. We have to come together. We have to heal. “

Surace said this summer that the SVO was encouraging members to sign petitions for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmad Arbery and asked members to donate to black nonprofits.

He also said the organization provided links to educational videos on systemic repression and listed local peaceful protests that members could participate in. Additionally, the SVO recently worked with Santa Clara County to provide businesses and churches with access to SVO funds, he said.

“On many levels, the Chamber, Foundation, and reach of the SVO have been exemplary across the community,” said Surace. “It wasn’t the PAC, and it distorted the views of the organization as a whole, it distorted the perception of the community as a whole, and it’s gone and that’s a first step.”

After the ad ran, SVO officials quickly accused a “web administrator” but refused to identify the person or organization. The group also blamed an outside advisor, Chariot Campaigns, for a racist image that was released in February that appeared to darken the face of a Latina council member.

A report from San José Spotlight revealed that the SVO continued to work with this advisor.

Officials hired an outside investigator on October 29 to shed light on what happened and how the picture was released. The organization also announced that it will begin a series of diversity training courses.

“If there is a crisis or controversy, the more you can get back to your core value proposition, the better off,” Perkins told San Jose Spotlight. “And our fundamental value proposition is networking and visibility, public advocacy, supporting companies with resources and tools. We just want to do more and involve more minorities and different companies.”

This is not the first time the group of companies has posted questionable or racist campaign images and ads.

In February, the group darkened the face of Sylvia Arenas, a San Jose councilor, in an advertising campaign labeled as racist.

The group faced similar allegations in 2016 when they blacked out a picture of councilor Sergio Jimenez and treated a picture of councilor Kalen Gallagher in 2018 to look like he was turning off the camera.

Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.

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