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Federal court: “Shocking evidence” of racial bias in DeKalb parks dept.
Former DeKalb County parks director Becky Kelley presented “shocking evidence” of an overt pattern of racial bias by then-CEO Vernon Jones (right) and others, a federal appellate court ruled last week.
Four current and former parks employees thus will get their day in court, or increased leverage to settle their claims out of court. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday denied the county’s request to dismiss their reverse-discrimination lawsuit.
The employees contend they were demoted or forced out of their jobs as Jones, after taking office in 2001, put more African-Americans in key park and recreation management positions. The plaintiffs include Kelley; current supervisors John Drake and Michael Bryant; and Herbert Lowe, once a black manager in the department who said the county retaliated against him for refusing to help Jones execute a plan of racial discrimination.
DeKalb County argued that Jones and the other defendants were immune from prosecution. The appellate court granted immunity to Richard Stogner, Jones’ executive assistant, but rejected the others’ claims for protection.
Evidence in the case, the court’s ruling said, “established that Jones contrived a broad plan to eliminate white managers and replace them with black managers so as to create a ‘darker administration.’ As a means of implementing this scheme, Jones and his administration would ‘eliminate’ the white managers’ positions rather than simply firing the white managers.
“His discriminatory intent was further made plain by his open expressions of racial animus, calling Bryant a ‘white bastard’ and declaring that he wanted to terminate Kelley because he felt she let ‘whites’ control the parks.”
“Especially farcical,” the court said, was Jone’s contention that he had nothing to do with forcing Kelley out of her job, “considering that he issued the executive order that stripped her of her position as director of the Parks Department.”
Kelley, parks director since 1992, was reassigned to the county’s Greenspace program in February 2002; her responsibilities were so diminished that she described her job as “coloring maps.” She resigned seven months later.
Remaining defendants in the case are Jones, who left office in December because of term limits; Marilyn Boyd Drew, Kelley’s replacement, whom new CEO Burrell Ellis fired last month; Morris Williams, now chief of staff for the DeKalb County Commission; and Human Resources Director Joe Stone.
Here’s the full text of the appellate court’s ruling is available here.