East Bay Express publisher resigns over racial slur scandal

Leonie Leonida/Staff

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East Bay Express publisher Stephen Buel stepped down from his position Saturday after a scandal in which he used a racial slur — prompting past co-workers to come forward with allegations of harassment and discrimination against Buel.

Buel used the word in front of East Bay Express staff when critiquing an article written by former associate editor Azucena Rasilla that discussed the use of the same slur by white people. Buel released an apology on the East Bay Express website Friday, prior to his resignation.

While referring to hateful words subsequently reclaimed by the communities they once oppressed, I said a couple of those words aloud,” Buel said in his apology on the East Bay Express website. “I should not have done so and am extremely sorry that my remark caused others pain.”

Rasilla claimed in a blog post that Buel condemned her piece on the BottleRock Napa Valley music festival because of its criticism of white people using the slur, saying the piece was racist to white people. Buel removed the story without discussing the decision with Rasilla or Editor in Chief Kathleen Richards, Rasilla said in the post.

Other people have come forward with complaints against Buel. Shortly after Buel posted his apology, former East Bay Express publisher Jody Colley came forward in the comments section of Buel’s apology and claimed that Buel sexually assaulted her in 2009 by inappropriately kissing her.

One former San Francisco Examiner reporter, Kamala Kelkar, accused him of denigrating her work after she complained to the human resources department about issues she was facing with sexism in the workplace. Kelkar claimed that Buel eventually fired her.

Buel’s resignation has fueled controversy among local journalists.

“His attempt to (address) what has happened was pretty egregious,” said former East Bay Express reporter Gabrielle Canon, who recently resigned. “He had several opportunities to fix these issues (before) he was publicly forced to.”

Canon praised the #MeToo movement, which she felt provided the impetus for Buel’s resignation. She said the movement has primed women to take a stand, creating a sense of camaraderie among women and making Buel’s actions more visible to the public.

Buel could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Neil Chase, executive editor of the East Bay Times and the Mercury News, said he hopes the journalists who left in the wake of Buel’s scandal will continue on in their careers, as journalism is a necessity in the East Bay at the moment.

“The East Bay needs journalism and journalists more than ever. … Anything that makes it hard for journalists to do their job is not the right direction,” Chase said.

Contact Jasmine Sheena at [email protected].