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Seminole County tax collector says he was encouraging public discussion with Facebook post

Greenberg says he's not stepping down, won't apologize


SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – A couple days after posting a question--for a friend-- on Facebook asking what Muslims have contributed to communities, Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg said he's asked for security because of death threats against him and his family.

Greenberg's chief of security said all threats will be taken seriously, and there was a law enforcement presence at Monday's noon news conference held by activists and local leaders asking for Greenberg to apologize and step down.

"Very simple question ... Name just ONE society in the developed world that has benefited in ANY WAY from the introduction of more Muslims," read Greenberg's post Saturday morning. "Just one. Asking for a friend."

Greenberg later said the friend he was asking for was conservative commentator Neil Boortz, and added a link to Boortz's tweet with the same question that included an article about female genital mutilation.

The controversial Facebook post disappeared from the social media outlet, but not by Greenberg's doing. He said Facebook removed the post, informing him that it violated community guidelines.

In an interview with News 6, Greenberg insists he did not mean to offend anyone.

The former radio host said he's not apologizing because he thought he was provoking and encouraging public discussion on his personal Facebook page. He said he believes thoughtful discussion is a good thing even though he acknowledges it might make some uncomfortable.

Greenberg, who said he is Jewish, told News 6 he is not a racist and that he has traveled to the Middle East extensively.

The elected official said he won't be stepping down, because he was elected by the people and will continue to serve the people.

Orange County and Seminole County Democratic groups have called Greenberg to step down and are asking Gov. Rick Scott to remove him from office.

The governor's office has yet to address those requests to remove the tax collector from office.

“The Governor does not agree with this statement," Scott's deputy communications director Mara Gambineri said in response to Greenberg's Facebook post.

During a news conference in front of the Seminole County Tax Collector's Office members of the Muslim community, LatinX and religious groups called on Greenberg to "own his hate speech" and step down.

"Hate has no place in Seminole County," said Paul Diz Truman, with Seminole County Young Democrats. "It should have no home anywhere in the U.S."

 

Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, right, and the Aug. 18, 2018 Facebook post that set off calls for him to step down.
Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, right, and the Aug. 18, 2018 Facebook post that set off calls for him to step down.

Muslim civil rights activist with Young Democrats of Orange County Rasha Mubarak alleged that this is not Greenberg's first offense against the Muslim community.

According to Mubarak, Greenberg posted in June of last year after the London terror attacks: "This is reality of unchecked Muslim immigration."

Mubarak said a former Muslim employee of the tax collector's office has an ongoing case against Greenberg, after she was fired following her returned from maternity leave.

"This is not asking for a friend, we have asked for open dialogue, we have asked for forums, we have asked for an apology," Mubarak said. "But now we are asking for our attorney general and responsible elected officials to push for Joel Greenberg's resignation immediately."

Attorney General Pam Bondi's press secretary said the AG does not have either statutory or constitutional authority over county tax collectors.

Those calling for the tax collector to step down also referred to an incident when Greenberg was pulled over in January by Lake Mary police and requested a "professional courtesy" asking they not give him a speeding ticket.

"I am deeply repulsed by Mr. Greenberg's inability to control his compulsion," said Imam Abdurrahman Sykes, with the Islam Society Leading American Muslims. "His belief that as a public servant he is above the law and his recorded request not to be issued a ticket when stopped for speeding by the Lake Mary police department."

Greenberg was elected in November 2016.


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