SARASOTA - Restaurant owners rebut a Sarasota commissioner's comments on diversity, or a lack thereof.

According to the Herald Tribune, before casting the decisive vote Tuesday rejecting a a $92 million Marie Selby Botanical Gardens expansion plan amendment, city Commissioner Willie Charles Shaw addressed the chamber about racial diversity aimed at Michael's On East, the restaurant named exclusive caterer for Selby’s proposed five–story parking garage and rooftop restaurant. Shaw condemned the restaurant owners for what he called unfulfilled promises to add more people of color to their workforce.

Now the 72–year–old commissioner is under fire after restaurant owners Michael Klauber and Philip Mancini penned an open letter on its website on Thursday calling Shaw's statement "patently false."

"We're deeply disappointed that the need exists to write this letter," the owners wrote. "Our Michael's On East family is full of dedicated individuals whose ages, races and cultures vary widely."

The letter went on to say that the 32–year–old Sarasota restaurant wasn't created around "fulfilling diversity quotas, or categorizing our staff as statistics."

According to owners, Michael's On East employs 175 employees and roughly 30% are non–white. Klauber said that Shaw has rarely approached him on racial and diversity issues. He also said that neither Klauber nor his co–proprietor Mancini reached out to Shaw.

Shaw, reached by phone, declined to comment.

His district is largely made up of the historic African American community of Newtown. On Tuesday, Shaw talked about how business owners and others often come to him and promise to hire people of color and other younger people in Sarasota.