December 12, 2017

Report: Top chamber prez choice bows out amid race controversy

FIle Photo
FIle Photo
Dr. Fred McKinney

The Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce's top choice to replace its retiring president has withdrawn his name from consideration amid concerns over an opinion piece he wrote linking the North Korean crisis to white supremacy, the New Haven Independent is reporting.

Fred McKinney, a longtime community leader who now directs minority-business enterprise programs for Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, told the Independent he orally accepted the job and agreed to salary and benefit terms on Nov. 8, but changed his mind a few weeks later after learning there had been "a negative reaction" to his article, which he posted on his LinkedIn page Sept. 24.

His article made the case that white supremacy was the root cause of the Korean crisis and said "unless the United States president and U.S. policy makers, diplomatic and military, realize this, the Korean people, all Americans and indeed the entire world is at great risk."

McKinney, who lives in Trumbull, told the online news publication he initially offered to meet and discuss the article with anyone at the chamber who raised concerns, but then decided to withdraw, saying, "I can have a bigger impact elsewhere."

In an email interview with New Haven Biz Tuesday afternoon, McKinney said the "reaction to one of the hundreds of articles I've published over the years" was not the only reason for his decision. But he said it gave him "serious pause about this opportunity and how I might be spending the next seven to 10 years left in my working life."

"For almost all of (my) career, I have focused on improving conditions for minority- and women-owned firms. This job could have been consistent with my personal mission," he said. "But the reaction forced me to ask the question of how long it would take the chamber and the broader community to be willing for the significant change I would want to pursue in New Haven."

He added that he now believes he can "help business communities like New Haven, Hartford, Stamford, Bridgeport, and others more from the outside than the inside."

Michael Schaffer, head of the chamber's search committee, told the Independent he thought McKinney was the best candidate for the job and that he could help expand the organization and make it more inclusive. He did not say who or how many members objected to the article, but said a "significant portion" of the group still supported his hiring.

Schaffer did not respond immediately to requests for further comment Tuesday. Email and telephone messages were also left with the chamber seeking comment.

McKinney earned a doctorate in economics from Yale in 1983 and previously served as president and CEO of the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council. He would have replaced longtime chamber President Tony Rescigno, who is retiring at the end of this month after 17 years.

Read the full New Haven Independent article and McKinney's opinion piece here.

Natalie Missakian can be reached at news@newhavenbiz.com

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