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Dean Grose to quit as Los Alamitos mayor over racial cartoon

Lawmaker apologizes for e-mailing cartoon showing White House lawn planted with watermelons. He will remain on City Council until 2010.

February 28, 2009|Tony Barboza

The mayor of Los Alamitos said he will resign after coming under fire for an e-mail depicting the White House lawn as a watermelon patch, saying the controversy over racism has made it difficult to lead the city.

Dean Grose issued a statement Thursday saying that he is sorry and will step down as mayor at Monday's City Council meeting. But he will continue to serve as a council member until his term expires in 2010, city officials said.

The announcement came less than a week after Grose sent the e-mail, which had a picture of the White House lawn planted with watermelons and the title "No Easter egg hunt this year."

The e-mail garnered national media scrutiny after it was first reported by the http:// on Tuesday night.

Police have stepped up patrols around Grose's home and business after he found a smashed watermelon Wednesday morning on the sidewalk and door outside his business, EMS Medical Products.

Local businesswoman and city volunteer Keyanus Price, who is black, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that she was offended by the e-mail she received from the mayor's personal account Sunday.

"I have had plenty of my share of chicken and watermelon and all those kinds of jokes," Price said.

"I honestly don't even understand where he was coming from, sending this to me. As a black person receiving something like this from the city freakin' mayor -- come on."

Grose did not return phone calls Friday seeking comment, but told the Associated Press last week that he didn't mean to offend Price and was unaware of the racial stereotype that black people like watermelons.

In a written statement Thursday, Grose apologized and said he would step down as mayor, saying that the incident has "impacted my ability to provide leadership and team-building efforts."

"We had exchanged e-mail jokes in the past, and it was never my intention to cause any discomfort or embarrassment for Ms. Price. I am truly sorry," Grose wrote. "This was clearly my mistake, which I accept was in poor taste and I regret that it has created this cloud."

Grose has served on the City Council since 2006 and in December became mayor of the predominantly white Orange County town of about 12,000, just east of Long Beach.

Los Angeles civil rights leaders Friday applauded Grose's resignation.

"Grose did the right and honorable thing by resigning," Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson said in a written statement.

"His resignation serves as a cautionary warning to other public officials that racial sensitivity must be their watchword in governance," Hutchinson said.

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tony.barboza@latimes.com

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