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Fulton County Commissioner Emma I. Darnell insists she never expressed any desire to rid the Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library of its white management staff. Darnell told an U.S. District Court jury in Atlanta Thursday that, as the commission’s representative on the county library’s Board of Trustees, she never cast a vote based on race. “This is the first time in 30 years I have been accused of race discrimination by white employees,” she told the jury. “I don’t have a good feeling about it because I know what it feels like to be discriminated against because of color.” Darnell is black. Eight white members of the library’s staff have accused Darnell, her 12 colleagues on the library board and the director of the library of demoting them from management positions at the central library downtown because they are white. The case contrasts the vigorous denials of black library officials, many of whom say they have suffered race discrimination, against a paper trail of memos and meeting minutes that, plaintiffs say, document library trustees’ apparent efforts to rid the downtown library of “old, white women.” Closing arguments are scheduled to begin today before U.S. District Judge Beverly B. Martin. Former Georgia Attorney General Michael J. Bowers, now a partner at Meadows, Ichter & Trigg, and associates Christopher S. Anulewicz and Kelly Jean Beard represent the librarians. Deputy Fulton County Attorney June Green is defending the library board. Bogle v. McClure, No. 1:00-cv-2071 (N.D. Ga. Jan. 7, 2002). The suit is the fourth major reverse discrimination case against Fulton County brought either by county employees or county contractors in recent years. In three previous cases, federal juries have ruled against the county. In one of those cases, U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. in 1999 ruled the county’s affirmative action program unconstitutional. The county has appealed all three earlier verdicts, vowing to carry them to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. ‘RACIAL EQUITY’ CONCERNS According to allegations in court records, the library’s black trustees first became concerned about “racial equity” at the central library downtown in 1993, shortly after Darnell joined the board. “Racial equity,” according to those court documents, was the trustees’ code for using staff appointments to achieve a racial balance of employees When Darnell joined the board, “It became focused on racial ‘equity’ and on eliminating the ‘plantation mentality’ that it perceived existed at the central library,” according to one pleading. Darnell confirmed in a deposition that she was concerned that black librarians were assigned to library branches in predominantly black neighborhoods while white staff were assigned to branches in predominantly white neighborhoods. At the time, the central library’s management staff was predominantly white. Darnell also acknowledged in that deposition that the board’s racial equity program focused on shifting resources away from “white” libraries to “black” libraries. When questioned in front of the jury Thursday, Darnell explained that she and colleagues on the library board and on the Fulton County Commission were concerned about the racial composition of the library staff because “blacks in Fulton County government are concentrated in the lowest-paid jobs.” “That’s not a belief,” she testified. “They are, as a matter of fact, concentrated in the lowest-paid, dirtiest jobs.” The county commissioner said her concerns dated back nearly nine years. “I don’t believe we have had any information with respect to hiring and promotional patterns in the library in recent years,” she testified. On May 25, 2000, library Director Mary K. Hooker reluctantly approved a broad reorganization that included the transfer of the eight plaintiffs from management positions in the central library to branch posts across the county. Those transfers were made at the direction of William McClure, chairman of the Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library Board of Trustees, court documents state. Minutes of library board meetings and board committee meetings and staff memos state unequivocally that the transfers were intended to reduce the number of white female staff at the central library downtown and replace them largely with blacks, according to court pleadings. To that end, in 1999 the board directed Hooker to provide a systemwide listing of all black children’s librarians, library managers and administrators. In early 2000, board Vice Chairwoman Mary Jamerson Ward instructed the library board staff to identify all management personnel within the public library system by race and gender, except for the library’s Auburn Avenue branch, which was staffed primarily by blacks, according to court pleadings. ‘TOO MANY WHITE FACES’ “There are too many white faces in management at the central library,” court records say Ward stated at a board personnel committee meeting. The library staff produced a document titled, “The Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System Branch & Unit Management by Race.” At a Jan. 6, 2000, board meeting, Ward noted that “the central library … has in it a white-dominated administration” and suggested that the matter be rectified. McClure agreed at that time that redistributing the staff by race should be a high priority. In a visit to the central library, McClure commented, “There are too many old, white women” in management positions downtown and that the board needed “to get rid of” them, the pleadings state. In an urgent memorandum in April 2000, Hooker wrote to the library board chairman, asking him to postpone the reorganization and warning, “Significant legal ramifications could be present.” Hooker also sent to the library trustees a list of articles describing the county’s losses in several reverse discrimination suits filed by white county employees and notified the county’s legal staff of her concerns. County lawyers in turn warned that any transfers must not constitute demotions or violate county personnel regulations and that they should be reviewed by the county personnel director before they were implemented. The board, according to court records, ignored that advice. Called as a defense witness, library trustee and personnel committee Chairman Benjamin Jenkins hotly denied that he or any of his colleagues discriminated against the library’s white staff. His voice choked with emotion, Jenkins — who spent much of his career as an equal employment opportunity counselor at the U.S. Defense Department — repeatedly dabbed tears from his eyes as he called the allegations “repugnant and reprehensible.” A native Atlantan who experienced firsthand “the racist and sexist environment in this city,” Jenkins said he remembered being barred from entering the downtown library as a young man because of his race. In a soliloquy that elicited tears of sympathy from Green, Hooker and other observers, Jenkins told the jury angrily, “Never have I been so insulted. Never have I been charged with discrimination with racial intent. … Something is wrong when we can be drug into court and accused of being racist. We found a system that was racist. We found a system that was sexist. … I am not a racist. I’m offended to be called one.”

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