Liquor commission email controversy - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Liquor commission email controversy

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On a day when thousands in Hawaii are celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, one city agency is facing a controversy over racial insensitivity.

The Honolulu Liquor Commission said it recently took disciplinary action against Dexter Suzuki, a supervising administrator, for emailing an allegedly offensive cartoon to all 50 commission staffers last month.

It's a cartoon of a hooded man carrying a baseball bat with the caption "Shopping in Ferguson" -- a reference to the racial unrest in Missouri that led to some looting.

"That was inappropriate, it was racial and it should not be happening in the work place," said civil rights attorney Daphne Barbee.

"It's very disheartening. It's depressing. You come so far in civil rights and you would think people will respect peoples' ethnicity and then this happens."

Barbee represents an African-American woman, who has worked at the commission for about three years and received the email. Barbee said her client has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Hawaii News Now spoke briefly with Suzuki, who has worked at the commission for about two years. 

He said the email was a joke referring to shopping during the hectic holidays. He said he's apologized for the email.

Meanwhile, the Caldwell administration issued this statement:

"The Honolulu Liquor Commission has expressed regret about the incident, and took immediate, prompt, and appropriate disciplinary action," said city spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke.

People who attended today's Martin Luther King Day parade told us insensitive emails at work are all too common.

"People still send things like that around. They could think it's a joke but what I might think is a joke might be offensive to someone else," said Makiki resident Danny Thomas.

Barbee is demanding compensation for her client's ordeal and sensitivity training for all employees. 

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