Hackers blamed for unwelcoming Chamber of Commerce email

Anti-LGBT messages went out from county chamber's account




The Clark County Chamber of Commerce is facing a backlash after someone hacked its email account, sending messages saying that gay, bisexual and transgender businesses should stay out of Clark County.

The emails, sent Wednesday, read: “To help maintain the integrity of our website, we ask members to refrain from posting any listings that reference or involve the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community. We feel that these businesses and listings have no place in Clark County.”

A later email called gay businesses “immoral.” An email sent 51 minutes after the first two intolerant messages simply reads: “Our apologies, please disregard the earlier email and it was send (sic) to general membership in error.”

The emails spread like wildfire, and local LGBT advocates were quick to denounce the organization, including posting a petition online to “tell the chamber not to discriminate” that has garnered more than 100 signatures.

Director Izad Khormaee said Friday that the emails were nothing more than a vicious case of spam.

“We pride ourselves in being an inclusive organization and value diversity,” he said, saying that LGBT businesses are “absolutely welcome.”

“Our goal is to create an environment for folks in Clark County to build their business and grow their business,” Khormaee said. “We were as horrified as anybody seeing that email go out.”

The Clark County Chamber of Commerce is not the largest in the area — that title belongs to the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce. The 1,100-member organization has

also taken some heat due to confusion over the two groups.

The Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce posted comments on its Facebook page saying it’s aware of the “discriminatory and offensive emails” and that it wants to reiterate that it welcomes “anyone and everyone” who wants to join the chamber.

CEO and President Kelly Parker said Friday that her group is “very inclusive. The rule is that we want more people in the parade, not fewer.”

The Greater Vancouver Chamber’s bylaws state that “no person shall on the ground of race, religion, creed, national origin, age or other protected status be excluded from membership.”

Vancouver state Rep. Jim Moeller said Friday that he had reached out to Khormaee and believed that the emails were not sent by the Clark County Chamber of Commerce.

“This is not the kind of notoriety you’d like to have as a business that promotes other businesses,” said Moeller, who is gay. “I honestly believe Izad. He’s been nothing but very forthcoming in trying to address this issue, and made a promise he would place a nondiscrimination policy on their Web page.”

Moeller said his office would work with the chamber to write language for that nondiscrimination policy after the new year.

The Clark County Chamber of Commerce started in 2004 and is run entirely by volunteers. It operates a website, http://clarkchamber.com, and sends monthly emails to about 1,200 people announcing events.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or andrea.damewood@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reporterdamewood or www.twitter.com/col_cityhall