Official Ousted From Agriculture Department Had Taken USDA to Court, Won

Fox News, July 20, 2010

The Agriculture Department has a lengthy history with the official forced to resign Monday over a controversial YouTube clip–it turns out she and a group she helped found with her husband won millions last year in a discrimination suit settlement with the federal government.

{snip}

{snip} Days before she was appointed to the USDA post last year, her group reportedly won a $13 million settlement in a longstanding discrimination suit against the USDA known commonly as the Pigford case.

The Rural Development Leadership Network announced last summer that New Communities Inc.–a group Sherrod formed with husband Charles, who is a civil rights activist, and with other black farmers–had reached the agreement. The RDLN said the USDA had “refused” to offer new loans or restructure old loans to members of New Communities, leading to the discrimination claim.

The announcement said that in addition to the $13 million to New Communities, Shirley and Charles Sherrod would each get $150,000 for “pain and suffering.”

A USDA official told FoxNews.com on Tuesday that the settlement had “nothing to do with” Sherrod’s hiring last year–likewise, the official said her resignation was only the result of her comments in the video.

{snip}

Sherrod’s settlement was a drop in the bucket in terms of the money the federal government has paid out in Pigford claims to other black farmers over the years. The suit claimed the USDA racially discriminated against black farmers by not giving them fair treatment when they applied for loans or assistance. The case was first settled in 1999, resulting to date in more than $1 billion in compensation payments from the federal government.

In addition, the Obama administration has called for another $1.15 billion to settle claims for other black farmers–Congress has not yet granted the money.

{snip}

[“Who Wants to Be a Black Millionaire?” an American Renaissance aerticle on the Pigford case can be read here. Articles related to it are listed here.]


{snip}

Ms. Sherrod’s previous background, the circumstances surrounding her hiring, and the USDA’s agenda may all play a part in explaining her sudden departure from the agency. These matters have not received much scrutiny to this point.

An announcement of Ms. Sherrod’s July 2009 appointment to her USDA position at ruraldevelopment.org gives off quite a few clues:

RDLN Graduate and Board Vice Chair Shirley Sherrod was appointed Georgia Director for Rural Development by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on July 25. Only days earlier, she learned that New Communities, a group she founded with her husband and other families (see below) has won a thirteen million dollar settlement in the minority farmers law suit Pigford vs Vilsack.

What?

The news that follows at the link, which appears to pre-date the announcement of Ms. Sherrod’s appointment, provides further details:

Minority Farm Settlement

Justice Achieved–Congratulations to Shirley and Charles Sherrod!

We have wonderful news regarding the case of New Communities, Inc., the land trust that Shirley and Charles Sherrod established, with other black farm families in the 1960’s. At the time, with holdings of almost 6,000 acres, this was the largest tract of black-owned land in the country.

. . . Over the years, USDA refused to provide loans for farming or irrigation and would not allow New Communities to restructure its loans. Gradually, the group had to fight just to hold on to the land and finally had to wind down operations.

. . . The cash (settlement) award acknowledges racial discrimination on the part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the years 1981-85. . . . New Communities is due to receive approximately $13 million ($8,247,560 for loss of land and $4,241,602 for loss of income; plus $150,000 each to Shirley and Charles for pain and suffering). There may also be an unspecified amount in forgiveness of debt. This is the largest award so far in the minority farmers law suit (Pigford vs Vilsack).

{snip}

Here are just a few questions about Ms. Sherrod that deserve answers:

* Was Ms. Sherrod’s USDA appointment an unspoken condition of her organization’s settlement?

* How much “debt forgiveness” is involved in USDA’s settlement with New Communities?

* Why were the Sherrods so deserving of a combined $300,000 in “pain and suffering” payments–amounts that far exceed the average payout thus far to everyone else? ($1.15 billion divided by 16,000 is about $72,000)?

* Given that New Communities wound down its operations so long ago (it appears that this occurred sometime during the late 1980s), what is really being done with that $13 million in settlement money?

{snip}

Topics:

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.

Comments are closed.