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Fired DeKalb rec director had stormy 7-year history


Monday’s firing of the DeKalb County recreation director, ostensibly for messing up entries for a state swim meet, actually may have been seven years in the making.

marilyn boyd drewDeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis fired Marilyn Boyd Drew (right) after her department missed several opportunities to enroll 67 kids in a statewide swimming competition to be held this weekend.

But Drew has been accused of job discrimination, based on reverse racial bias, almost as long as she’s been running the department.

Four parks and recreation workers filed suit in 2004 alleging Drew, former CEO Vernon Jones and others engaged in a pattern of discriminatory behavior designed to replace white managers in the department with blacks. Herbert Lowe, a black supervisor, charged that the county eliminated his job and forced him out because he wouldn’t go along with the scheme.

In November 2006, a federal judge ruled the defendants had presented enough evidence to take the case to a jury. But the case has been in a holding pattern since then because Jones, Drew and other defendants asked a federal appellate court to overturn that decision.

Attorneys filed briefs and argued before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2007, plaintiffs’ attorney Christopher Anulewicz said today. The court has yet to rule.

According to the suit, Drew told Lowe to “dig up dirt” on white employees and withhold information from them, so they would appear to be incompetent. He claimed Jones, the county’s first African-American CEO, told him several times he wanted a “darker administration.”

Former parks director Becky Kelley said the CEO’s aides had urged her to hire Drew in 2001 because she was black and Jones would not accept a white candidate. Nine months later, Jones reorganized the department and gave Kelley’s job to Drew. The former department director was demoted and moved to a windowless office that had once been a storage area. She later resigned.

Other top managers claimed in the suit that Drew reduced their job responsibilities and excluded them from policy discussions.





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4 Responses to “Fired DeKalb rec director had stormy 7-year history”

  1. Dekalb Resident says:

    Makes the Ricci case look like a cake walk…

  2. jawja says:

    Sadly, the first quote related to the firing quoted in AJC is that she’ll appeal:

    As a merit-protected employee, I will avail myself to the appeal process,” Drew said.

    WHERE IS THE MERIT in a system that protects jobs of incompetents, and drags our tax dollars through the legal process?

  3. Name One says:

    Don’t forget the Jane McMillan lawsuit also.
    Vernon Jones pushed out Becky Kelley, who was qualified enough to now be the director of Georgia State Parks.

    Anti-White Bias Claims Described;
    DeKalb Wanted ‘Darker Administration,’ Lawsuit Claims
    Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 26, 2004

    A reverse discrimination lawsuit filed this week by four DeKalb County parks employees alleges a two-pronged, systematic effort to achieve a “darker administration”: marginalize white managers and reward black ones.

    The suit against Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones, the county’s first black CEO, and members of his administration alleges that Jones tried to force white employees to leave by offering preferential treatment to black employees in hiring, pay and travel benefits. At the same time, the white managers allegedly were moved to windowless rooms, refused mileage stipends, denied pay increases and had their authority limited.

    At least one more discrimination case is in the works. Lee Parks, attorney for former DeKalb Recreation Director Jane McMillan, says he will file a similar discrimination suit in federal court next month.

    “She is suffering the same kind of problems” as those in the lawsuit filed by the four parks employees, Parks said. Parks is the attorney whose suit forced the University of Georgia to change its gender-based admission policies.

    “There is a fairly organized, methodical effort to put African-Americans in jobs that have a profile with the public,” Parks said. “Where the position has a public face, the current administration wants it to be a black face.”

    Claims Called Frivolous
    County spokesman Burke Brennan said Thursday that the county had no further comment on the matter because of the suicide of County Attorney Charles Hicks. On Tuesday, Jones’ executive assistant, Richard Stogner, who is a defendant in the lawsuit, called the allegations frivolous. Stogner, who is white, noted that Jones has hired several white department heads since taking office in 2001.

    The white plaintiffs in the suit are Michael Bryant and John Drake, who still work for the parks department, and Becky Kelley, former parks director, who is now the director of state parks and historic sites. Plaintiff Herbert Lowe, a black former manager in the parks department, claims he was fired because he refused to “dig up dirt” that would help discredit white managers.

    The lawsuit also claims that Morris Williams, a Jones administration official named as a defendant in the suit, told park officials “to hire a ‘black’ contractor to run the county’s Sugar Creek Golf Course.” The suit alleges that Williams told Bryant to turn off a tape recorder that was recording that part of their conversation.

    Not Allowed to Speak
    Bryant later complained that the black contractor awarded the Sugar Creek contract “was paying his wife an excessively high salary over and above the management fee services,” according to the suit. Drake also complained about “financial improprieties” at the golf course. Parks Director Marilyn Boyd Drew, who is also a defendant in the suit, then stripped both Drake and Bryant of oversight of the golf course contract, the suit alleges.

    A golf course employee referred all questions to the county government.

    According to the suit, Kelley says that Jones “jumped from his chair and stepped toward [her] in a frightening and threatening manner” during a meeting. At least two other women — an unsuccessful CEO candidate and a community activist — have claimed that Jones has threatened them. Jones has denied the allegations, calling them political.

    Hints of Kelley’s coming departure came soon after Jones was sworn in, she says in the suit. In March 2001, voters were asked to approve a $125 million bond referendum to buy parkland. Kelley, who had worked in the parks department since 1976, claims she was not allowed to speak during public hearings and was relegated to running a PowerPoint presentation on the bond program.

    Kelley later was moved from a large office to an 8-by-10-foot room without windows or an air conditioning vent, the suit contends. She resigned in 2002.

  4. Jerry Battle says:

    I am so happy justice was served correctly for the late Mr. Bryant. There was others that was abused by the unethical practices of Drew-Jones and her crew. I was one that experienced the unlawful termination in which until this day I know it was a personal conspiracy due to not buying into her unethical managing practices. I pray that Drew-Jones never get the chance to mess up what is needed so dearly by the public ever again and I’m speaking out of experience not anger.