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.

Khamlee Vongvone

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.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

One reply on “Brookhaven city manager apologizes to photographer, model for incident at Cherry Blossom Festival”

  1. Everybody is jumping on the former PR director’s comment on the basis of it being racist, because that is what we do in today’s society. Whether it was or not is not the only aspect of this situation. What she said was the use of the models was inappropriate and not the image the city wanted. She was apparently under the impression the photographer was hired to shoot “candid” photos of people having fun at the event, not of hired models in posed photos. The photographer virtually admitted that when he said he brought the models to shoot some photos to use to promote his own business. But he was hired to shoot the festival. He was on the clock of the City of Brookhaven to shoot photos of the festival for the city’s future use, not his use to promote his business. What he did bringing the models to the photo shoot was inappropriate. That is probably why he now says the focus should be on the models’ complaints, not on him. He is the real culprit here, not the PR person. I would hope the city of Brookhaven will never hire this photographer for any purppose ever again. And, make him apologize for causing this incident in the first place.

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