The Naples City Council voted 4-3 to ask Councilman Sam Saad to resign. Saad told the City Council he will talk to his family tonight and have an answer for Council tomorrow. But immediately after the meeting, Saad told the media that he isn't planning to resign.
Mayor Bill Barnett ended up being the decisive vote.
Newly elected Naples City councilman Sam Saad has been asked to resign.
Fellow Councilman Gary Price this morning asked council to add the suggestion to the agenda. The initial request was followed by accusations of racism against Saad, which sparked a heated debate in the council chambers. Saad had also been involved in a controversy about driving with a suspended license. Saad, a lawyer, was caught by a Daily News photographer driving to City Council.
After a half hour discussion, the Council then voted 6-1, with Saad the lone objector, to have resolution drafted to ask Saad to resign. The resolution is expected to be in the hands of the council for a vote by the end of the afternoon.
Price in a prepared statement said he wasn't comfortable sitting through another council meeting with a crisis of confidence looming.
Councilman John Sorey said he was disappointed in Saad's judgment.
"It's an unfortunate circumstance of the legal system that I have not and will not address the driving on suspended charge as whether it did occur or didn't occur," Saad said.
"With regard to resigning, I understand people feel betrayed. I read every blog post, every letter to the editor, every personal character assessment that's been made based on the reports in the paper and the internet," Saad said. "If i resign now that is going to be the impression that the community has on me forever."
"The better thing for me to do is to spend the next four years working 10 times harder than anyone else," Saad said.
"Let me prove to you the person that I really am, which is someone who deeply cares about community," Saad said
Mayor Bill Barnett then dropped the bombshell, mentioning anonymous blog postings accusing Saad of making racist statements on a TV show more than four years ago.
Saad said a blog post describes him as part of an anti-Jewish, pro-Arab conspiracy to infiltrate the government. Saad said that post does not reflect his beliefs.
The blog post states that Saad, who is of Lebanese decent, said he was troubled with U.S. government because it had too many Jewish leaders. Mayor Barnett is Jewish.
Saad admits to being on a television show but doesn’t recall making such a statement.
"Like I said it does not reflect who I am," he said. "It does not reflect anything about me as a person."
Saad said he learned of this blog posting on Tuesday. However, The Daily News has obtained an e-mail sent on Saturday to the Naples City Council from Michael Lissack.
Sorey said this new incident is a totally different level of concern.
"We've all had speeding tickets. We've all used poor judgment. If this is substantiated, and I think we have a process that you're innocent until proven guilty, and based on that tape you'll have to make a decision," Sorey said.
Councilwoman Dee Sulick agreed with Sorey.
"It's not about the tickets," said Sulick. "It's about the lack of judgment people saw happening after the tickets."
The city does not have the authority in its charter to discipline a council member, said City Attorney Bob Pritt. Gov. Charlie Crist's office is the only office that has the ability to discipline or suspend an elected official.
Naples resident John Allen said Wednesday he applauded Price for raised the issue during the council meeting.
"I think he should do the honorable thing ... to protect council from further embarrassment," Allen said when asked whether he thought Saad should resign.
Naples resident Murray Hendel said he received an anonymous e-mail over the weekend with an excerpt from a 2006 blog featuring Saad.
Hendel said he confronted Saad about the e-mail on Tuesday, and Saad told him he remembered doing the show but said he was misrepresented in the blog. Hendel said he then asked Saad to resign.
While Hendel said Saad didn't immediately respond to his request, Hendel said Saad called around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and said he wasn't going to resign.
"I hate that this is happening," said Hendel, who supported Saad in the election. "When all of this stuff came up, I was terribly upset."
MULTIMEDIA: SAM SAAD
- DOCUMENTS: Read 58-pages of e-mails from residents about Naples City Councilman Sam Saad (.pdf)
- DOCUMENT: Sam Saad's letter to Naples City Council (.pdf)
- DOCUMENT: Naples City Councilman Sam Saad's driving record (.pdf)
- DOCUMENT: Screen shots from the "Arab racism Islamo fascism" blog that comments on Sam Saad's remarks (on page 3 of 3) (.pdf)
- DOCUMENT: Councilman Gary Price's statement regarding Sam Saad (.pdf)
- DOCUMENT: Resolution asking Sam J. Saad III to resign (.pdf)
- VIDEO: 4-3 vote asks for Sam Saad's resignation
- VIDEO: Mayor Barnett discuses resignation vote
- VIDEO: Saad's statement after resignation vote
- VIDEO: Council asks for Saad's resignation
- VIDEO: Saad blames 'people playing gotcha'
- PHOTOS: Saad asked to resign amid allegations of racism
- PHOTOS: City council member driving on suspended license
- STORY: Saad to Naples council: 'I look forward to serving the balance of my term'
- STORY: Seat of any office holder no place for antisemitism, others say
- STORY: VIDEOS/PHOTOS: Naples councilman says he won't resign amid accusations of antisemitism
- STORY: VIDEO: Saad says Naples has bigger issues than his driving record
- STORY: Naples council member Saad apologizes about driving transgressions