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3/25: Derry defends Turner as his pick for post
Released 01 April 2009  By Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (CA)

Derry defends Turner as his pick for post

Joe Nelson - Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (CA)

Joseph Turner is a man who inspires a passionate response in many people, and it's not always good.
Local Latino activists who rail against his aggressive stance against illegal immigration have called him a racist, a hate monger and a "carpetbagging opportunist riding the anti-immigrant wave of hatred."

San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry, however, says Turner is an exceptionally bright man and gifted writer - just the man he needs as his new special projects coordinator.

While the Board of Supervisors this week approved hiring Turner for Derry's staff, others have denounced Derry's pick.

"I guess David Duke wasn't available for a good government job," said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino. "Why would someone put somebody in a position of trust like that who has used race-baiting as a way to get into the spotlight?"

Turner founded the nonprofit Save Our State in 2004, an activist group whose mission is to thwart illegal immigration in the U.S. The group plastered its Web site with racist propaganda including derogatory caricatures of Latinos and slogans like "Operation Wetback" before sanitizing it, Levin said.

Turner did not return calls seeking comment.

Derry stands by his decision. He said Levin has "no credibility" and described the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism as a "nonexistant one-man shop that hasn't updated its Web site since 2001."

Turner is no longer involved with Save Our State and has toned down his rhetoric, Derry said. Turner has also earned praise from supervisors in the Department of Public Health, where he has worked as a staff analyst since Jan. 31.

Turner will begin his new job Monday. His main duties will be writing news releases and working with Derry on op-ed pieces for newspapers, Derry said.

Turner will earn $55,536 a year.

"It's an outrage to the minority community, especially the Latino community," Gil Navarro, a local Latino activist, said Wednesday.

Turner's previous forays into local politics were unsuccessful.

In 2006, he proposed a San Bernardino ballot measure to ban city-funded day laborer centers and require all city business to be conducted in English only. He also proposed penalizing landlords for renting to illegal immigrants.

As a San Bernardino councilman at the time, Derry supported the measure.

"There's a lot of people in this country who think illegal immigration is just fine. Most of my constituents don't think that," Derry said.

The same year, Turner made a bid for a seat on the San Bernardino City Unified School District board.

In 2007, Turner ran for San Bernardino city clerk.

During his attempt to squeeze into San Bernardino's political spotlight, Turner fell into the good graces of Derry and the San Bernardino Police Officers Association, which supported his run for city clerk.

Rich Lawhead, president of the police union, believes Turner will be "a definite asset to Neil Derry."

Turner assisted the police union in 2006 with mailers, speech writing and other work, Lawhead said.

"I don't think he's a racist. He's just very outspoken, and sometimes people who are outspoken tend to get painted with a very broad brush," said Lawhead. "He's a very good guy, and he's far from being a racist. I never heard a racist comment come out of his mouth."

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