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After publicly complaining about a “white dominated administration,” a board member with the public library system for Atlanta and Fulton County in Georgia demoted seven white librarians “because of the color of their skin,” and then tried to call it a “reorganization.”

That’s the conclusion reached by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which upheld a lower court’s ruling against the library. The three-judge panel made the unanimous decision that library officials intentionally discriminated “on the basis of race and used trickery and deceit to cover it up.”

Library officials failed to produce evidence of a systematic reorganization for the plaintiffs’ attorney, except documents dated six weeks after the librarians were transferred.

The move amounts to a $17 million mistake, according to the paper.

The opinion, written by Judge Susan H. Black, revealed that library board member Mary Jamerson Ward complained publicly about “too many white faces.” Ward is no longer on the board.

The appellate decision, according to the Journal-Constitution, holds three members of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System board and the system’s director financially liable. Fulton County attorney O.V. Brantley said the county would cover their cost, if it comes to that.

Brantley plans to recommend the Fulton County commissioners request a rehearing before the full panel of the 11th Circuit. The county also could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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