Is there a climate of racism inside Barrow County’s government?
Two months ago, Human Resources Director Norma Jean Brown didn’t think so. But in the last three weeks, Brown has come to a different conclusion on the matter. Two weeks ago, she became so concerned that she took serious allegations of race, gender and wage-hour violations to the Barrow County Board of Commissioners and personally hired an Atlanta attorney specializing in employment law to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Critics say Brown is merely retaliating against perceived threats to her own job on unrelated matters. In a Nov. 1 memo to the board, Commissioner Larry Joe Wilburn raised questions about the timing of Brown’s complaint. Wilburn believes Brown’s actions came as a result of some commissioners looking at her own personnel file and noticing a rebuttal memo about an incident from earlier in the year.
But Brown said her discrimination allegations actually had to do with another Oct. 20 incident and had nothing to do with her file.
“The reason I did it that week is because it came to my attention, on that Tuesday, the most hideous and heinous remarks made that violate Title VII,” she said. “It was brought to my attention… statements and orders to HR that were illegal and violated federal and state laws.”
Brown said the offensive comments by someone in county management followed weeks of “constant unethical remarks, unethical behavior, illegal remarks and illegal behavior.”
She said she was so sickened by the blatantly racist comment that she threw up in her office trashcan.
“That’s not the first time,” she said.
Asked flatly if there is a climate of racism in Barrow County’s government, she said: “It’s only a couple of people, but you’ve got to look at the positions those people hold. Because of the level of authority of the people who the allegations are about, the answer to that would have to be ‘yes’.”
For the complete story, see the November 4 issue of the Barrow Journal.