By Jason Schwartz
DELRAY BEACH – In the wake of commissioners approving the new city manager’s contract, a photo of him in sunglasses has caused a stir.
Staffers on Wednesday posted a photo of Louie Chapman, Jr., in sunglasses on the city’s Web site, mydelraybeach.com. This has rankled employees and residents, who say the photo is unprofessional and grounded in stereotypical and racist images of African-American males – a demographic routinely subjected to racial profiling.
“I find this disrespectful that they would run such a photo,” said one employee, who asked not to be identified in fear of retribution. “Most of us haven’t met him yet and to show us an image of him in sunglasses, even if they are transition lenses, is disrespectful and deliberate.”
The City removed the photo and replaced it with one without the glasses Thursday morning. The public information office manages the site.
“That wasn’t the staff’s favorite picture either but it was just the best that they had at the time,” interim City Manager Doug Smith said. “They tried to contact HR to see what they had. They didn’t know Mr. Chapman was still in town. We thought he left earlier.”
Mayor Tom Carney however thinks it’s much ado over nothing.
Carney said he had not seen the photo and could not comment on it.
“When (former mayor) Woodie McDuffie wore sunglasses at the meeting because he lost his glasses nobody commented on that,” said Carney, who voted for Chapman. “I voted for Louie Chapman, I like Louie Chapman. I think nothing of it.
“The fact that they used a photo in sunglasses could mean maybe that was the only photo they had,” he added.
The photo, similar to the one inserted, was taken while Chapman, 60, attended the groundbreaking ceremony of Village Commons on Tuesday.
Resident Ann Stacey Wright had not seen the photo but thinks it was an attempt to attack Chapman’s “character early.”
“I had not gone on the site so I’m not aware of it” she said. She however thinks the picture is intended to show Chapman as “militaristic.”
Chapman, currently town manager of Bloomfield, Conn., a suburb of Hartford, was in town to answer questions from commissioners, who later approved his contract by a 3-2 vote.
Chapman, who is black, is the city’s 14th and first CEO of color since the city was incorporated in 1911. He will begin April 1 at a salary of $160,000 a year. Chapman replaces David Harden, who retired Jan. 3 after 22 years.
C. Ron Allen contributed to this report.