Brookhaven’s city manager on Monday apologized to a photographer and teenaged model for their treatment by a former city employee during the city’s Cherry Blossom Festival.
“I apologized to them personally for how they were treated at the Cherry Blossom Festival last month and explained to them that the communication director no longer works for the city,” City Manager Marie Garrett said in a statement released by the city.
She said a city investigation of the incident is continuing.
Photographer Nelson Jones and 17-year-old Khamlee Vangvone said they met with Garrett and she apologized to them personally. “We received a formal apology on behalf of the city of Brookhaven,” Vangvone said. “[Garrett] just said she was sorry for the behavior of the ex-communications director.”
Former City Communications Director Rosemary Taylor was relieved of her duties after her confrontation with Jones, Vangvone and a second teenaged model.
Taylor has said she told Jones the two girls did not present the image Brookhaven wanted to project in its promotions. Jones said he and the two teenagers thought she was referring to the two girls’ race. One was African-American and the other Asian.
Taylor has said her comment had nothing to do with the models’ ethnicity, but about how they were dressed. “Racism had absolutely nothing to do with my interactions with the photographer and his hired models at the Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival,” she said in a statement released April 9.
On Monday, Vangvone said she still believed the comments were racist, despite Taylor’s denials. “You had to be there to know what she was talking about,” Vangvone said. “It’s the way she said it.”
Jones denied Taylor’s claim that he was a “political hire” during the festival, a claim city officials also have denied. He said he had photographed city events for free in the past and that this was his first paying job with the city.