A Gwinnett County employee has been suspended after referencing a racial slur while emceeing a department awards ceremony, officials said.
The incident involving community services manager John Register is just the latest in a recent string of racially charged controversies to spring up within Gwinnett’s government.
According to the suspension letter sent to Register on Monday by Tina Fleming, the director of the county’s Department of Community Services, Register emceed part of the team’s annual “service award meeting” on Oct. 6.
While holding a microphone, Register allegedly referred to aquatics manager Jim Cyrus, who is black, as “still the HNIC.” He used only the letters in the initialism, which stands for “head [slur] in charge.”
“Many” staff members heard what Register said, according to Fleming’s letter, and at least four later complained to their supervisors.
“Your behavior reflected unfavorably, not only on this Department, but on the County as an employer,” Fleming wrote. “While your comments may not have been intended to be offensive, they in fact were as evidenced by complaints received thereafter.”
Register is serving a one-week suspension this week and is not receiving pay, Gwinnett spokesman Joe Sorenson said. Register is not a merit employee so “there will not be any kind of hearings regarding the matter,” Sorenson said.
Attempts to contact Register were not successful Wednesday.
Gwinnett, a minority-majority county and one of the most diverse communities in the Southeast, has seen a spate of racially charged incidents this year.
Before taking over the AJC's morning newsletter, Tyler Estep worked as a reporter covering DeKalb County, its government and its people. A Gwinnett County native and University of Georgia graduate, he has been with the AJC since 2015. He previously covered his home county and served stints on the paper's hyperlocal and breaking news teams.