A California environmental agency unintentionally incited chaos in its workplace when it sent a mass email to its employees about an available “safe space” for discussion following the Derek Chauvin murder conviction late last month, The Sacramento Bee reported. Soon afterward, workers began voicing their opinions and accusing management of “caving to the mob.”
The incident occurred after an employee at the State Water Resources Control Board messaged all of its 2,376 staff members at the agency and its nine regional water control boards with the email subject line reading, “Employee Support Lunch Through Teams Friday 4/23/2021.”
The message was sent by a member of the board’s newly formed Racial Equity Steering Committee and Working Group, without blind-copying the recipients, thus allowing anyone to reply to the entire group. The email was an invitation for a voluntary lunch meeting for anyone who wanted to discuss Chauvin’s conviction. A jury convicted the white former Minneapolis police officer on Tuesday, April 20, of murder and manslaughter for the May 2020 death of George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis man.
The note in the email acknowledged “how rough the last few weeks have been on everyone’s mental health with the senseless killings that have taken place all over the country.” It went on to ensure employees that they “were not alone.”
It continued, “We would like to give you the opportunity to discuss some of these feelings. This event is intended for employees who are feeling emotionally affected by the current events of the country; it is not a question and answer session.”
Sacramento Bee reported that in response to a Public Records Act, the water board was obligated to provide the news outlet with the email thread — with employee names removed. Reportedly, roughly two-and-a-half hours following the initial email, an engineering geologist at the Colorado River Basin Regional Water Quality Control Board, one of the nine agencies reporting to the state board, shot off the initial reply-all.
The geologist wrote, “Killing occurs everyday in the United States and it is not all reported on. If the eater board actually wanted to make a difference they would or would not do this for everyone. The fact the water boards is doing this now, is just a sign of caving into the mob. Rome also was a great nation once before it feel to the mob.” He ultimately asked to be removed from the “racially based” mailing list.
An employee with the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board later replied, “I refuse to apologize or be victimized for immutable characteristics over which I have no control. Shame on the waterboard steering committee for stoking the flames of division like this,” a third employee wrote. “How extremely inappropriate and unfortunate to distribute such egregious propaganda this way.”
That worker then listed off the names of the most recent officers who died in the line of duty, including Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officer Shay Mikalonis, who was shot in the head and paralyzed during a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020. “These are real people who chose a life of service, willing to place themselves in harm’s way daily in order to protect ALL who cannot protect themselves,” the employee wrote.
After several calls to have everyone cease hitting reply-all — to which no one adhered — the email thread was ultimately shut down by the information technology office, Jackie Carpenter, a spokesperson for the water board, told the news outlet.
She added, “The replies that were sent expressed a range of views, and some replies did not demonstrate the civility I expect in work-related discussions. However, this discourse highlighted the importance of continuing our conversations about racial equity — working to ensure that race is not a predictor of life outcomes in California — and how that work benefits us all.”
It’s unclear whether those employees would be disciplined.