Trial Begins to Decide Whether Dekalb County Discriminated Against White Managers

Steve Visser, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 22, 2010

Testimony is to start Tuesday in a federal trial in which plaintiffs contend former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones ordered a top subordinate to “dig up dirt” on top white managers because he wanted a “darker administration” to reflect the county’s racial makeup.

Lead plaintiff lawyer Michael Bowers told jurors in opening statements Monday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta that three top managers in the county’s parks department were humiliated, harassed and forced out of their jobs because of their race, and an African-American, who was once a close friend of Jones’, was fired because he wouldn’t carry out the orders.

On Tuesday, Bowers, a former state attorney general, and co-counsel J. Tom Morgan, former DeKalb district attorney, plan to play for the majority-white jury a voice mail recording that they contend shows “an overall scheme in county government” to discriminate against whites.

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Becky Kelley, who was director of DeKalb’s parks department for nearly a decade, Michael Bryant, who was the deputy director for the parks department, and John Drake, another former deputy director of the parks department, filed a suit in 2004, contending that they suffered job discrimination because they are white. Herbert Lowe, a black deputy director in the department, contends he was fired because he wouldn’t cooperate with the program to target white managers for removal.

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