Schenectady Police say the owner of a city ice cream shop was arrested on menacing charges for pointing a pellet gun at protesters outside his business Tuesday night. Demonstrations have continued outside Bumpy’s Polar Freeze since the weekend amid reports that the owner, David Elmendorf, sent text messages with racist slurs and said that he doesn’t hire Black people.
Calls to numbers listed for Bumpy’s Polar Freeze and David Elmendorf went unanswered Wednesday morning.
The Schenectady County Human Rights Commission says it’s outraged by the business owner’s actions. WAMC's Jim Levulis spoke with the Commission’s Acting Chair Omar McGill.
McGill: It was actually a team effort. It wasn't just myself the commissioners kind of concluded over the weekend that they wanted to make a statement about the issues that are going on within Schenectady County at the moment specifically the issues at bump ease. So we you know, we got together I called a special meeting. After I you know, saw that the outcry from the commissioner saying that we need to do this because we all felt the same We're all on one accord that we felt that this was something that needed to be addressed. You know, people were all gathering our information together as a collective. So we held a special meeting on Monday and we decided to come up with a statement to make sure that we voice our voice our voices are heard on during this issue.
Levulis: And why does the commission think the New York State Attorney General's Office should investigate the situation at bump ease polar freeze?
Because we in any time it's a civil rights issue, or there's a racial discrimination that is going on, specifically, you know, in this case in the workplace, that is something that needs to be definitely evaluated. You know, there's no room for discrimination. There's no room for racism, there's no room for hate in, in our in our in our community. So that's one thing that we think that, you know, is one of the reasons that we think we should support Chris Gardner to investigate a civil rights violation.
You mentioned that the board members of the Commission came together to issue this statement is the commission itself launching any sort of formal investigation or just will continue to look into the matter anything along those lines?
McGill: We will, we will definitely, we'll probably move forward to as long as it's within our purview, move forward on looking into the issue and being in support in a support role for the Attorney General and the county attorney Chris Gardner. We definitely want to, you know, continue to look, you know, into this, this situation to make sure that, you know, things go smoothly and also be an assist, if you will, in any way that we can. This is something that we do not take lightly. You know, this is something that the Human Rights Commission is supposed to be involved in, in falls under our auspices and in our mission. So this is something that we really want to, you know, be a part of, and help our team because we know. This is not the only, you know, situation we have like this in our community, unfortunately, that we have in our community. But this is something that's being put that's going on right now. And it's something that we want to take serious so we can learn so we can start letting people know that this will not be tolerated in our community, especially Schenectady County, this type of behavior, this type of action will not be tolerated for our community members.
And Omar, have you or other members of the Commission been aware of racist actions by bumpiest polar freeze or by its owner before as our alleged now?
We there had been there during our call we'll say their words. Some commissioners did bring up his past history of some things that will may have been said or some actions that were that came out on the bumpiest are came out of bumpers. Yes. So there were there was there we did acknowledge the past history as well in deciding Okay, a statement is it in the end making a statement.
And we're speaking Wednesday morning and Omar, I wanted to get your response to the arrest of the shop’s owner on menacing charges after police say he pointed a pellet gun at protesters outside the business Tuesday night. What's your response to that?
I think that that should he should definitely should be arrested. And I definitely think it should be looked at more on because you know, in a situation like that, if somebody comes on and pulls out a gun on people, you know, that that's almost like, you know, you can be attempt to you, people don't know what can happen at that moment. So I mean, you put people's lives in danger. And you know, you're continuously putting people's lives in danger. You know, with the health code violations that you already had that going on as bumpy. And then now you come out and do this with a gun. I mean, this is showing that you have no remorse for what's going on. So I think the police should arrest them and I think he should be you know, he should be tried.
While we're speaking Omar I did want to ask you about another matter: the firing of the Commission's executive director Angelicia Morris, back in February, why did the commission board fire her?
Um, we had, we, you know, we came together and there were some performance issues and, you know, duties that weren't being met. So, you know, we are we are, you know, we outlined in, in a, in a letter to the county managers saying why we felt it was time to go forward in a different direction. You know, she, you know, we thanked her for her service, you know, she was, you know, she did, you know, she did the best she could, but we just thought it was time to go in another direction, because there were some things that, you know, as a board that we were seeing that we just didn't feel that were up to par. And also, we're putting the commission in a good light, if you will.
Can you provide a few more details on what those things were?
Not this moment, no, I rather because there is you know, a case But with that matter, I'd rather not, you know, move forward into that direction just because, you know, we have, you know, there's legality issues with that. So I just want to make sure I'm careful and make sure I don't put on the county in a bad situation.
Is the Commission searching for a new executive director at the moment?
Yes, we are. We are in the midst of looking for executive director. We're hoping to have that. That executive director hired by August, we are also looking to fulfill our commission commissioned members to our full 15, which our bylaws state that we should have a full 15. So we are looking to fill our commission as well. And we're also looking to improve some of the, you know, systems that the Commission has in place to make us more transparent and make us more available to the people on right now, I don't think we are available as we should be. So we are working behind the scenes to make sure that we are more transparent. And if people really need to people, anybody goes through discrimination, whether it's employment, or housing or anywhere that we are available to help them in that situation. But there's some things that we have to do behind the scenes to make sure we get to that point. So, we are definitely in the midst of executive job, we have a great talent pool. Our search committee search committee is working diligently to make sure that we pick the best candidate and a right fit. And, you know, once we are able to do that, we will definitely present that to, you know, the county and hopefully they will, you know, take our take our recommendation and hire that person.
And how many current commission board members are there?
See, right now, there's only eight. Right now there's eight. You know, our bylaws state that they're supposed to be 15 nobody was really, you know, I I joined last year, nobody was really understood why I hadn't to be fulfilled to 15 but there's a lot of leadership at the time you know, really wasn't really did not try to fulfill that number but our bylaws do stay 15 so in our in our commissioners felt that we need 15 so you know, our commissioners will know so right now we're in the process of you know, actually we're about to begin that process of trying to fill commissioners, so we're going to be, you know, asking our legends county legislators for recommendations of people from their districts who they think would be a good fit or if we know anybody who has any interest. And I and I say to say this now, if you do have any interest in being on the commission or being a part of our committees, please let us know our committees are public. So, you know, you might not be even though you're not a commissioner does not mean you can't be on a public committee, but we will, you know, we will begin that process, you know, but you know, just keep that in mind that, we will be announcing that, you know, sooner or later we might wait until we, you know, get our leadership in place. But, you know, people are allowed to be a part of our committees, as well, if they have interest in them.