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Mayor of Czech town apologizes after bureaucrat recommends application to use the town logo be rejected because she believed the applicant to be Romani

11.3.2021 7:30
The unpublished minutes of the Šumperk Town Council meeting from March 2020 reveal that an applicant requesting use of the town's logo was rejected because a bureaucrat was of the opinion that he was Romani. (Collage:  Romea.cz)
The unpublished minutes of the Šumperk Town Council meeting from March 2020 reveal that an applicant requesting use of the town's logo was rejected because a bureaucrat was of the opinion that he was Romani. (Collage: Romea.cz)

News server Romea.cz has obtained a copy of unpublished minutes from a meeting of the Šumperk Town Council from March of 2020 that reveal a bureaucrat rejected a request from an applicant to use the logo of the town just because she believed he was Romani. "He looks like a member of the Romani community. We decidedly do not recommend authorizing this," bureaucrat Helena Miterková said, according to the minutes; after holding a department head post she then went on to hold the office of secretary of the town council last August.  

The minutes do not record whether any objection was made to that remark by Mayor Tomáš Spurný (Pro Šumperk - For Šumperk). "So, we are voting to resolve that the town council will not allow this use of the logo of the town of Šumperk," the mayor is literally quoted as saying in the minutes of 5 March 2020 immediately after the statement about the applicant's ethnicity.

The nine town councillors who voted in favor of Miterková's opinion also are not recorded by the minutes as having made any objections to her statement. Apparently none of those involved were aware that the name of the entrepreneur in question, Takhasi Yoshida, who wanted to use the logo on decorative items handmade from cement, glass and other materials, is not a Romani name, but is most likely a Japanese name.    

News server Romea.cz has learned that the bureaucrat is quite likely to have assessed the entrepreneur as being Romani because of grammatical and stylistic errors in the request to use the logo and therefore recommended rejection of the application. "Here this is no longer just about Romani people, but about minorities living in the Czech Republic overall. It should never happen that a request is automatically rejected because it is written in bad Czech. Moreover, we must realize that the applicant was not asking for permission to roast sausages on the town square, but wanted to use the logo of the town for a business plan," says the source of the information, whose identity is known to the editors at Romea.cz.  

The source also pointed out that all of the business having to do with merchandising for the town goes directly to Miterková, who commissions and manages which vendors trade in souvenirs with the logo of the town and who will not. "She finds a reason every time to reject new applications. She is just doing this so the business will remain exclusively under her control," the source warns.  

Bureaucrat: I am not aware of having said he was Romani - that must have been somebody else

News server Romea.cz contacted Miterková by telephone for her response and she denied that any application to use the logo of the town would have been denied just because the applicant was Romani. "Under no circumstances is that an obstacle. I'd have to look that up, it would have been said in the context of the town councillors asking for what purpose the applicant wanted to use the logo and who was asking for it. I am not at all aware that it was said the person is Romani," she told news server Romea.cz.

The correspondent for Romea.cz informed the bureaucrat that it had been recorded directly in the minutes that it was she who had said, last March during a session of the town council, that the applicant appeared to be a member of the Romani community and that therefore she decidedly did not recommend giving consent to his using the logo of the town; she claimed to not recall it. "That was a year ago and I no longer absolutely remember it. I am trying to remember what the context was, I would have to verify the application and also what kind of product it was about. If I said I don't recommend it, then it's because of how the product seemed to us, what utility value it had, how it would have been presented with the logo of Šumperk on it - whether it even had anything to do with the town or not," she said, rejecting the idea that she would have made her decision based on whether the grammar in the application itself had been correct or not. 

"Certainly not. Each item or event for which the logo of the town is requested is something we want to see, so it's on the basis of what we see, not on the basis of how the application is written," said the secretary, who was unable to explain what connection there was between the use of the logo of Šumperk and the fact that she herself, according to the minutes, had been of the opinion that the applicant was a member of the Romani community. 

"I do not know how that got into the minutes, I did not take the minutes. I did not sign off on that at all," she responded when repeatedly asked about the recorded statement.

The correspondent for Romea.cz informed Miterková that the minutes from the town council session had been recorded by a Ms Chaloupková and that it was not likely that something that had not happened during the meeting would have been recorded, to which Miterková replied that it was most likely that she herself had not made the remark, but that somebody else had and the minutes have erroneously attributed it to her. "Now I am thinking back on whether I might have ever said something like that in general. I have absolutely no prejudices against any minority," she said. 

Mayor of Šumperk:  I apologize, this remark is "unfortunate" 

Mayor Tomáš Spurný was contacted by Romea.cz shortly after our correspondent's interview with Miterková; he called the remark recorded in the minutes "unfortunate". "The Šumperk town council is not a gang of xenophobes interested in harassing the Romani community. Call Mr Červeňák, who cleaned the town up for us before the holidays, I sent him a kilogram of homemade kielbasa for that. He and I have coffee here every once in a while and talk about issues in the town," the mayor told Romea.cz, adding that he has been friends with many Romani people since childhood.   

"This is one unfortunate sentence about an issue that was discussed for 10 minutes. It's likely that if everything said in the debate had been written down it would have covered two sides of an A4 piece of paper. This was unfortunate and taken out of context," the mayor said.

The correspondent for Romea.cz responded by saying it certainly was unfortunate given that the name of Mr Takhasi Yoshida is in all probability a Japanese nam, not a Romani one, to which the mayor responded in the same vein as Ms Miterková. "I no longer recall the details of that debate, or who could have arrived at that conclusion and how, or whether we had that information or the department already had it... Mainly, Ms Miterková does not join those debates under any circumstances, she is the secretary, she is not a councillor. We always invite the heads of the departments there, in this case I don't know who it was, whether it was the Property Rights Department or the Social Department, I don't know," he said.    

"Ms Miterková's role is just to sit there and be involved with taking the minutes. She is more or less invited as an auxiliary person, but she is not a councillor who would be able to make a decision. The decisions are the result of the debate among the nine councillors. In other words, the fact that she is mentioned in the minutes is the consequence of 10 minutes of debate summarized in one unfortunate sentence," the mayor said, adding that "it was bad and stupid and all I can do is apologize."   

Rena Horvátová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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antigypsyism, Racism, society, Xenophobia



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