A group of Casco residents is demanding the resignation of a selectwoman who used her private e-mail account to forward a racist joke about Michelle Obama.

The e-mail included photos of the first lady and a monkey with similar facial expressions. It also contained a joke that has circulated widely on the Internet, which alludes to Obama’s ancestry.

Selectwoman Barbara York sent the e-mail July 31, but it didn’t become public knowledge until Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen.

Mary-Vienessa Fernandes, an African-American resident of Casco, told the board that she got home from work recently and found a printed copy of the e-mail in an envelope that had been placed on her door. She told York that she should resign immediately.

At Tuesday’s meeting, York didn’t name the recipient of the e-mail that she forwarded. It was not a town official.

Fernandes told York that the humor in the e-mail was racist and degrading.

“I would hate to think that somebody might find fun in thinking I come from apes and not from Adam and Eve,” she said.

“I do apologize,” York replied. “It was sent to me, and I sent it on. I’m sorry if it offended anybody.”

York, who is in her 70s, did not return a message left at her home Wednesday.

She is a prominent member of the community. She has served on the Board of Selectmen since the early 1990s. She recently was president of the Casco Village United Church of Christ.

Fernandes, 56, who works at group homes for the mentally disabled and moved to Casco three years ago, said York’s apology is not enough. She wants the board to ask York to resign.

“I won’t allow them to push this under the rug,” she said.

Antonio Jackson, 37, an African-American who attended the meeting, said York needs to apologize to the entire town, not just its black residents.

Jackson said he knows of a dozen black families who live in Casco, which has about 3,500 year-round residents. He moved to town 10 years ago and is raising eight children with his wife. He said he loves living in Casco and that residents have welcomed him and his family.  

But when he saw a copy of the e-mail, he was enraged. “Honestly, I was trembling all over,” he said. “I couldn’t believe that something like that was happening in 2010.”

The Board of Selectmen plans to discuss the issue April 6.

Town Manager David Morton said Selectman Carroll Morton showed him an inappropriate e-mail that York had sent to someone in July. The town manager said he spoke to York and told her that the e-mail was offensive and that she shouldn’t be sending e-mails like that to anybody.

He said the e-mail about Michelle Obama is racist. He said he’s not sure if it’s the same one he saw last summer. He said he threw that e-mail in the trash, where it belonged.

The town manager said it’s up to the selectmen to censure York, not him. He works for the board, he noted.

Jeannine Oren of Casco recorded Tuesday’s meeting with her video camera and contacted the media about York’s e-mail. Oren accused David Morton of covering up for York after he saw her e-mail last summer.

Oren has battled with Morton and selectmen in the past over how the town has handled donations for Casco Helping Casco, a charity fuel-assistance effort. Oren is a board member and York is a former treasurer.

Selectman Paul Edes said Oren should not have contacted the media.

“Jeannine did a bad thing to the town with all this reporting,” he said. “We don’t dig. This town does not dig into something like this. If it gets to be a legal matter, it goes to legal counsel.”

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:
 

[email protected]