Two members of Hillsborough Diversity Council resign

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Two members of the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council have resigned in the last week, following the appointment of a new member.

That member is David McAllister, a vocal Confederate advocate and Commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He was voted into the Diversity Advisory Council last Wednesday by the County Commission.

The two resigned members, Nestor Ortiz and Dr. Gary Howell say they were shocked and disheartened by the vote. They say the Diversity Advisory Council is intended to be a voice for populations that are underrepresented or oppressed, at times, at the hands of Confederate activists.

But David McAllister says he understands and supports diversity and his voice has a place in the conversation.

At last week's Commission meeting, McAllister made his pitch for a spot on the DAC.

"I am committed to Hillsborough County. If you want diversity, you want me on the DAC," McAllister told the Commission.

Four of the six members present voted in favor of having McAllister represent in the category of Northern and Southern Europeans.

"I looked at this as an opportunity to be involved and participate on behalf of the indigenous southern Americans who were not represented," McAllister said.

Soon after, two members resigned.

Nestor Ortiz wrote to the county, "I am confused and dismayed by the timing of it all. Only 4 days after the Charlottesville tragedy and the continued and escalating national outrage and division on all sides regarding white nationalism did they decide to put a public southern confederacy advocate on this "DIVERSITY" advisory council."

In his resignation letter, Dr. Gary Howell, who represented the LGBT community on the Council, called the timing "Inconsiderate, disrespectful and inappropriate."

"The history of what David is representing is very painful for a lot of people and I think that would detract from the mission of the council," Howell said.

The DAC's mission is to facilitate communication between county government and diverse populations, advise on diversity issues, and give a voice to groups often left out of the conversation, from Native Americans to Caribbeans to people with disabilities.

"Neither I, nor any group that I am affiliated with is in any way racist or white supremacist," McAllister said.

McAllister believes his views, as a 6th generation Floridian, are part of the county's diversity.

"I'm going to do the best I possibly can," McAllister said. "I would like to see that council succeed and it can not succeed unless all parties are represented at the table."

We reached out to all four commissioners who voted in favor of McAllister's appointment - Sandy Murman, Ken Hagan, Victor Crist and Stacy White - to hear what drove their decisions and to get their response to the resignations. So far, we have not heard back from any of them.