Skip to content
New Jersey Mayor Sal Bonaccorso admits to using racial slurs

Mayor Sal Bonaccorso denied using racial slurs. He told reporters he found accusations that he repeatedly called black people the “offensive” n-word. He defended himself by saying he had a lot of black friends.

Then a local newspaper published audio recordings in which Bonaccorso, the longtime mayor of Clark Township, NJ, called black people the n-word and “ghosts.” He also criticized women working as police officers, saying they were all “disasters”.

On Tuesday, Bonaccorso admitted to using “hurtful and insensitive language.”

“It was wrong. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to have spoken of a race of people like that,” the mayor said in a nearly five-minute video posted on the city’s official YouTube channel.

Bonaccorso’s apology came a week after NJ Advance Media released the audio recordings and reported that Clark Township had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars hiding them from the public. Since they were revealed, the mayor and other city leaders have faced mounting pressure. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on Wednesday called on Bonaccorso, a Republican who has served as mayor since 2001, to step down immediately.

Bonaccorso did not. He did not immediately respond to a Washington Post request for comment Wednesday night.

The origin story of the tapes that now implicate Bonaccorso begins with Clark Police Lt. Antonio Manata, who claimed he was “outspoken” against the racism and sexism he has encountered since he was started working for the department in 2007. But he couldn’t stop that, because “no one in power in Clark was able to control” Bonaccorso and other leaders, according to a lawsuit that Manata and his lawyer wrote at the end of 2019 but never filed.

Between November 2018 and July 2019, Manata made several secret recordings of Bonaccorso, Clark’s police chief and a sergeant assigned to the police department’s internal affairs unit, according to the draft lawsuit. He then threatened to become a whistleblower, to file a complaint against the city and to expose the recordings.

Instead, the city agreed to pay Manata and his attorney $400,000 if he agreed to turn over the tapes and not prosecute. As part of the settlement they reached in January 2020, Manata also continued to collect a paycheck without actually working, until he retired last month, adding nearly $290,000 to the initial payout.

For more than two years, the plan worked. The tapes remained hidden – until last week, when NJ Advance Media released them while exposing Clark’s six-figure settlement with Manata. Since then, criticism of city officials and pressure for Bonaccorso to resign have snowballed.

At first, the mayor hit back at the allegations and criticism.

“I have many, many black friends in my life, many of them, and employees here and everything,” he told NJ Advance Media, though he repeatedly declined. times to listen to the recordings that the newspaper had obtained. “I mean, I’ve been here 22 years, never had a problem, and all of a sudden it happens?

“I find it offensive.”

At a city council meeting on Monday, Bonaccorso did not apologize to the dozens of residents present. Instead, he told them he had wanted to “fight vigorously” when Manata threatened to sue and disagreed with the “business decision” to settle.

Clark resident La’Tesha Sampson, who is black, told WNBC she went to the meeting hoping her mayor would give the people he serves “a heart response” to the tapes, which she called of “really, really disturbing”. Sampson said she left disappointed, according to the broadcaster.

On Tuesday, Bonaccorso changed course with the apology video.

“I made mistakes. And I would like to apologize for the pain I have caused the people of Clark, my family, my friends and anyone who has been offended by my comments,” he said. “They had the right to expect more from me.”

But, Bonaccorso added, he learned from those mistakes. He said his participation in Black Lives Matter marches in the months following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis showed him “a much bigger picture of how discrimination played out in a complex story”, which challenged his assumptions.

“I’m a very different person in 2022 than I was in 2020,” he said, adding, “The world is a teacher.”

Bonaccorso was criticized for his comments about race during one such march. In June 2020, protesters demanded that he proclaim he was “pro-Black”, NJ Advance Media reported at the time. Bonaccorso told the crowd, “I’m pro-black to all the good black people I know in my life.” Four days later, he said in a Facebook post that he had failed to clearly communicate what he meant, which was “unequivocally yes”.

“I’m proud of the fact that I never judge anyone based on their skin color; but, only about who they are as a person and how they treat others,” Bonaccorso wrote in the post.

In Tuesday’s apology video, although Bonaccorso admitted to using “hurtful and insensitive language” towards a specific “race of people”, he suggested doing so – repeatedly using the n-word and saying that they should hang black people from ropes in the city center recreation – never affected his behavior.

“I have never discriminated against anyone because of their race, gender or any other group,” he said. “I always treat people with respect and fairness.”

washingtonpost

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.