Posted on March 28, 2011

Racial Remarks Spark Reprimand of Nevada Official

MSNBC, March 26, 2011

Commissioners in central Nevada’s Nye County have voted unanimously to reprimand the county assessor, after she sent emails to the sheriff questioning the citizenship of workers building a new county jail.

Assessor Shirley Matson asked for an investigation of the workers’ citizenship or work visa status in a March 11 email to Sheriff Tony DeMeo, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

She wrote that her staff and the public “can plainly see that the construction employees are all Mexican/Latino non-English speaking and I’m getting complaints.”

That email was among many between Matson and the sheriff, sent after Matson was elected to a four-year term in November. The sheriff told Matson her remarks were blatantly racist and her request was unconstitutional.

County commissioners agreed in a special meeting Friday that Matson violated the county’s personal conduct policy. But they determined they could do little more than issue a public reprimand because she’s an elected official.

Commissioner Dan Schinhofen said Matson’s apparent viewpoint is: “They look Hispanic, so they must be illegal. Do you see where that could be seen as a bigoted statement? It’s bigoted to me.”

Matson told commissioners it never dawned on her that her statements might be construed as racially insensitive. She said her email to DeMeo had nothing to do with the issue of illegal immigrants, but was an attempt to protect the county. She recounted working for a San Diego construction company that was fined millions of dollars for hiring illegal immigrants.