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Racial Justice and Social Equity

Temecula Mayor Resigns Over Email Controversy

Temecula City Hall on June 5, 2020.
KPBS Staff
Temecula City Hall on June 5, 2020.

The mayor of Temecula resigned Thursday night, a day after apologizing on Facebook for an email he sent in response to a question about the city's police department and racism.

In the email sent on Tuesday, Mayor James Stewart wrote, "I don't believe there's ever been a good person of color killed by a police officer."

He concluded the email with the statement, "I have several good friends who are African-Americans, and they love living here because how safe it is for them and their families."

Screen capture of an email sent June 2, 2020, by Temecula Mayor James Stewart, in response to a question about police and racism in his city.
Screen capture of an email sent June 2, 2020, by Temecula Mayor James Stewart, in response to a question about police and racism in his city.

On Wednesday, Stewart posted a screenshot of the email to Facebook with an apology that said he is "well known for my dyslexia so I voice text everything. Unfortunately I did not take the time to proofread what was recorded. I absolutely did not say that. What I said is and I don’t believe there has ever been a person of color murdered by police, on context to Temecula or Riverside county. I absolutely did not say 'good' I have no idea how that popped up."

The Facebook confession got a range of reactions. Some brought up the 2016 death of Matthew Tucker, an 18-year-old biracial man who was killed by officers who had been called to his Temecula home because he was suicidal. Those officers were cleared of wrongdoing.

Some Facebook commenters did not believe there was a mistake. Some criticized Stewart for not proofreading the email before sending it, and some were willing to forgive the statement as an error.

There were also calls for Stewart's resignation.

On Thursday night, the city announced that Stewart had resigned. A short time later, he posted another apology along with the announcement of his resignation. In part it read, "You have every right to be hurt and offended. My typos and off-the-cuff response to an email on a serious topic added pain at a time where our community, and our country, is suffering. I may not be the best writer and I sometimes misspeak, but I am not racist."


Mayor Pro-Tem Maryann Edwards released this statement:

“Stew is a hard-working and honest man, and the City accepts his resignation. Temecula is poised to close this chapter, and continue our long-term commitment to preventing racial injustice in any form."

Stewart was first elected to the Temecula City Council in 2016. The mayor's post is rotated among council members yearly, and this was Stewart's first time as mayor.

Although he stepped down, the Press-Enterprise reports that activists went forward with a Friday afternoon protest that had originally been organized to demand Stewart's resignation. There is also a petition calling for a formal apology from the city, along with a virtual town hall to listen to Temecula's black community.