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 V.20 No.51 | December 22 - 28, 2011 

News Bite

NAACP Sues the City

A local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is suing the City of Albuquerque, charging that it treats African-American employees poorly. Court documents allege African-American workers aren't promoted and are paid less. They also experience harassment and intimidation, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in District Court on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Employees will sue the city as a class represented by the Law Office of Brad D. Hall. Details of who is involved in that class and their accusations have yet to emerge. The lawsuit does specify that African-American city employees are required to "perform menial and demeaning tasks" and to "adhere to unwritten policies and procedures," among other things. The lawsuit says there is a "pattern and practice" of these behaviors.

“Any large employer is going to have some unhappy employees, whether that unhappiness is valid or not."

Assistant City Attorney Rebecca Wardlaw

Assistant City Attorney Rebecca Wardlaw is handling the case. She says the city denies the charges emphatically. The city is an equal-opportunity employer, she says, and does not have a pattern of discrimination. Once hired, workers enter a job that has an associated pay grade, she says.

In June, the NAACP filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a national agency that enforces federal discrimination laws. After reviewing the case, the commission told the NAACP in September that it was within its rights to sue.

In response to the unequal pay allegation filed with the commission, the city offered up payroll records, says Wardlaw. "They do not indicate any sort of disparity such as what's alleged in the complaint."

Wardlaw says there have been other lawsuits brought against the city in which race was a factor. When employees file grievances, she says union reps or lawyers advise them to put themselves in a protected class, so they assert age, race or gender discrimination. "The city is a very large employer. Any large employer is going to have some unhappy employees, whether that unhappiness is valid or not."

MLK Council Says the City Bailed

Jewel Hall says the city is not backing the 22nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Multicultural Celebration on Jan. 16. Though Mayor Richard Berry signed a letter of support earlier this year that’s been printed in 1,000 programs for the event, she says the city offered no help in putting it together.

Hall is the president of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Multicultural Council, which she helped found in 1980, along with the city and others. She says the Mayor's Office scaled back its support because the council has been pushing for a Department of Justice investigation into the Albuquerque Police Department.

"Just to put their name on something, that's not cosponsoring."

Jewel Hall is the president of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Multicultural Council

Renetta Torres, vice president and longtime member of the council, is the mother of Christopher Torres, who was killed by APD in April. "The city will not work with or deal with or meet with anyone who says anything negative about the city or files a complaint," Hall says.

In an emailed statement, the mayor's spokesperson, Dayna Gardner, would not answer questions about Hall’s assertions directly. Instead, Gardner praised Albuquerque's diversity. She wrote that the city would still be participating in the celebration and looks forward to future events and an "ongoing relationship with the organization."

Hall says that’s simply not true. "Just to put their name on something, that's not cosponsoring."


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