NewsLocal News


Calls for School Board member Chris Patricca to resign following controversial statements

Posted at 12:29 AM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 00:29:28-04

LEE COUNTY — A Lee County School Board member is calling on one of her colleagues to resign over comments she made about Guatemalan students.

Melissa Giovannelli said comments made by her fellow board member Chris Patricca were “A textbook definition of racism.”

Patricca apologized again Tuesday night for the comments, but she did not say she would consider resigning.

Patricca said the controversial statements during a meeting of the Estero Council of Community Leaders on September 24th.

"The biggest challenge that those principals are facing is getting them out of the bathroom because they’ve never seen running water before," said Patricca during that meeting.

After hearing that, board member Melisa Giovannelli made her feelings known during Tuesday night's board meeting.

“When a fabricated and false comment is intentionally made to disparage a group of people by someone of a different race, it is a textbook definition of racism," said Giovannelli during the meeting. "While I believe the right thing for Ms. Patricca to do is to resign, I am doubtful that will happen.”

And it didn’t happen, but Patricca did follow Giovannelli’s comments with an apology.

“I do want to apologize yet again for the comments that I made at the ECCL. My comments were absolutely insensitive," said Patricca.

But for protesters who gathered outside the meeting, that apology wasn’t enough.

“An apology at this point is pretty small," said Kathy Mayo.

“Sorry is not enough. We acknowledge that she apologized, but like my shirt says, she needs to resign," said Yvette Benarroch, the Vice Chair for the Republican National Hispanic Assembly in Florida.

Earlier in the day in a board briefing, Patricca also said she wanted to learn more about the Guatemalan-American community.

"I did reach out to the Executive Director of the Guatemala Maya Center in Palm Beach County, asking for a tour," said Patricca.

But for the protesters, they feel like too much damage has already been done.

“The time to learn was before she took the position," said Benarroch.

“We don’t need people in that position who are not respectful of the folks they’re serving," said Mayo.