By Phil Kent
Robb Pitts, a county commissioner in Atlanta, Ga., says the county needs to hire more whites.
What? Not really?
Pitts, a black, said, “I would encourage the county manager to find ways to inform all ethnicities when new positions arise and make a concerted effort to diversify our employee base.”
That was in a recent email to constituents, and Fulton County Personnel Board Chairman Paul Zucca says still today the workforce “needs more diversity.”
“It is important for the people of Fulton County to feel empowered, to feel equal,” he said.
The issue is that the county employees have become heavily weighted in favor of blacks, and that has generated a series of costly court cases.
“There has been a pattern against white job applicants that has been going on a long time,” said Dick Williams, longtime host of “The Georgia Gang” Sunday broadcast on Atlanta’s WAGA-TV.
“Racism is wrong no matter where it comes from,” added Mo Ivory of Atlanta CBS radio and a prominent black voice in sprawling Fulton County where the capital of Georgia is located.
They were referring to the most recent federal court settlement of a high-profile lawsuit by a white person charging discrimination on the part of the black-dominated Fulton County government.
Former Human Services Deputy Director Doug Carl was awarded $1.7 million of taxpayers’ money in a racial discrimination lawsuit against his county employer, according to the May 22 Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Under the settlement, a majority of county commissioners agreed not to appeal the jury verdict that resulted in the award.
Carl filed the lawsuit six years ago, saying he was passed over for a director’s job because he is a white male. The newspaper reported that jurors heard testimony that a former county manager called employees “white marbles” and “black marbles” in making personnel decisions.
“They also heard second-hand testimony that County Commissioner Emma Darnell allegedly told a deputy county manager that there were ‘too many white boys’ in Human Services and that the new director should be black and female,” the paper reported.
It is also significant that no other Georgia county has workforce demographics so divergent from the people it serves.
Census figures put Fulton County’s population at 48 percent white and 45 percent black, yet 83 percent of the county government’s 5,500 employees are black and 14 percent are white.
“There are indications that the imbalance is exacerbating resentments in a county polarized along racial lines and leading to discriminatory employment practices that are costing taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuit payouts,” Constitution reporter Johnny Edwards says.
Discrimination against white workers in Fulton County, according to information compiled from Atlanta Journal-Constitution archives, began in the 1980s when black Democrats gained political control of the County Commission. Consider:
- In 1995, the county settled a suit by the white county clerk, who was replaced in 1989 by a black woman, giving the former clerk $290,000. That same year, a federal jury awarded $812,000 in damages to 16 former and current white deputies who claimed they were discriminated against by the county’s black sheriff.
- In 1998 the county settled a lawsuit by a white firefighter who won a discrimination suit by awarding the man $500,000 and promising to pay him the same salary as the chief. Federal jurors in that case found that the county “maintained a policy, practice or custom of racial discrimination against white employees in the appointment of department heads.”
- In 2000 a federal grand jury awarded $8,750 in damages to a white contractor who said he lost county work to a black-owned firm because of discrimination.
- In 2003 the county commission paid $18 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that seven white librarians were demoted and moved to outlying branches and that one black employee was punished for speaking up against the transfers. Then-Library Board Chairman William McClure was even quoted as saying “there are too many old white women” in management positions at the downtown library. A year later, two of the plaintiffs won another $250,000 settlement from the county when they charged they were retaliated against because of the first suit.
- In a pending lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, a white construction project manager in the county’s building construction division says he was passed over for two county jobs because he is white – and charges that the jobs were given to less-qualified minorities. A trial could occur soon.
- Five women who worked at the Fulton County Tax Assessor’s Office – two of them white – have filed a federal lawsuit claiming race and sex discrimination. Among other things, the suit charges that a black former supervisor withheld equipment from white employees and transferred them against their will, and that his behavior was in retaliation for previous complaints about the way white employees were treated. No trial date has been scheduled.
So Doug Carl, the latest white victim in Georgia’s most populous county, has lots of company.
Prominent attorney A. Lee Parks, who represents Carl and who has successfully represented numerous white victims of job discrimination over the years, says Fulton County has developed a reputation “for having a patronage-driven workforce that doesn’t work very hard and has too many people on its payroll.”
White people, he says, have problems working there because they fear the discrimination that blacks once faced decades before.
Phil Kent is an author, media consultant and panelist on “The Georgia Gang” seen Sundays on Atlanta’s WAGA-TV.