In a case that rings alarm bells about race and politics in upper tiers of the Fulton County government, a federal jury has found that county officials snubbed an applicant for a director’s job because he is white and male.
It ordered Fulton to pay $300,000 in back wages to former Human Services Deputy Director Doug Carl, who sued five years ago.
The sum could triple next month when a judge decides whether to add in future lost wages, pension benefits and attorneys’ fees, according to Carl’s attorney, A. Lee Parks.
But Fulton County Attorney David Ware said, in a written statement after the verdict last week, that Carl lost the job because he “completely blew the interview” and he expects the verdict to be overturned on appeal.
“The only reason Mr. Carl alleges that race played a part in the selection process is because the person chosen happened to be an African-American female,” the county attorney’s statement said. “Mr. Carl was incredulous that a black woman would be chosen over him and thus decided to accuse the county of a race-based decision.”
Parks said in response to Ware’s statement, “It’s sad. What it is, it’s disrespectful to jury.”
Ware said the jury shouldn’t have heard secondhand testimony that Commissioner Emma Darnell played a role, allegedly telling a deputy county manager that she had “too many white boys” in Human Services and the new director should be black and female.
The commissioner has denied making that statement, Ware said.
Darnell said the county attorney has told her not to talk about the case but she will speak out after the litigation ends.
Also during the trial, former County Manager Tom Andrews admitted calling employees “black marbles” and “white marbles” in weighing personnel decisions. While the jury found that Andrews discriminated against Carl, it declined to make him pay punitive damages.
Andrews did not return messages seeking comment.
Carl, who said he retired in 2010 after his position was eliminated, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I just think people should be employed based upon their merit, and not on their race. Discrimination is wrong, period, and discrimination has no color bounds.”
Carl said he wasn’t upset that the county hired a black woman, but felt he was passed over just because he is a white male. He said he thought his interview went well.
Ware, disputing a news release from Parks’ office about the case, said there is no evidence that Andrews’ decision not to promote Carl was based on race.
Former Human Services Director Valarie Wilson testified that her boss at the time, then-Deputy County Manager Keith Chadwell, relayed Darnell’s alleged “white boys” comment to her. Ware noted that at the trial, Chadwell denied saying that.
Comments others have attributed to Darnell also figure in a whistle-blower lawsuit pending against Fulton County, also being handled by Parks’ law firm.
Fired Deputy County Manager Gwen Warren and demoted internal investigator Maria Colon claim they were retaliated against because they planned to hand the district attorney evidence of embezzlement by a group of employees, even after County Manager Zachary Williams told them to hold off.
According to her complaint, Warren claims Williams quoted Darnell as telling him, “At Fulton County, we don’t investigate ourselves.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.