Discrimination grievance filed

Arundel official to publicly discuss complaints today

June 25, 2008|By Steven Stanek and Justin Fenton | Steven Stanek and Justin Fenton,Sun Reporters

The deputy director of Anne Arundel County's agency for job training and placement filed a complaint yesterday with the state office of civil rights, alleging racial and sexual discrimination by the county government.

Rene C. Swafford, whose position with the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp. was apparently about to be eliminated, said in a news release that complaints were also filed with the U.S. Department of Labor and Maryland Human Relations Commission. The attorney general's office confirmed that its civil rights office received a complaint from her yesterday morning.

Swafford, an African-American attorney and former Republican candidate for County Council, plans to detail her allegations in a newsconference this morning in front of the county government building in Annapolis after trying "for months" to have her concerns addressed by county leaders.

"I have been left with no alternative but to go public," Swafford said in a statement. She did not return phone calls requesting comment yesterday.

County officials said they were blindsided by the claims, but her boss acknowledged that she had recently been informed that her job was not funded in the annual budget that goes into effect Tuesday. Robert L. Hannon, president and acting executive director at the nonprofit agency, said he was considering offering her another position at a lower salary. He declined to disclose her current salary.

The board of directors at the quasi-public agency, which employs 25 people and operates on a $2.3 million budget, also declined this month to extend the contract of its executive director, Douglas A. Burkhardt, another former Republican candidate for local office and a party fundraiser.

"The problems she came to me with were with the former executive director, and if she had any other problems, she had never communicated those problems with me," said Dennis Callahan, the county's chief administrative officer, who said he personally recruited Swafford to the agency. "If you have a toothache, and the tooth is pulled, you no longer have a toothache."

Hannon said that Swafford had been upset about reimbursement of expenses related to a recent trip to Cleveland for a conference, but said there "has never been a conversation with Ms. Swafford on issues dealing with racial or sexual discrimination."

He said Swafford remained employed by the agency yesterday. Her news release was sent on agency letterhead with her office phone number and county e-mail address listed as contact information.

Republican County Executive John R. Leopold, who interviewed Burkhardt and Swafford in August on the county government's cable channel, said he was unaware of the turmoil within the agency, whose board of directors he appoints.

Yevola S. Peters, Leopold's special assistant for minority affairs, said that she had talked to Swafford about her concerns but that no specific allegations had been made and no complaints were put in writing.

"If she'd given me something in writing, then we could see what the merits of it was," Peters said. "This is the first time that I'm hearing something other than just general talking."

steven.stanek@baltsun.com

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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