Series of Hearings on Alleged Racism in Del. State Government St - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Series of Hearings on Alleged Racism in Del. State Government Starts Tuesday

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DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Accusations of racism inside Delaware state government were the focus of hearings starting Tuesday night in lower Delaware.

Religious leaders and the NAACP are holding a series of meetings this week in Kent County and next week in Sussex County. The hearings are supposed to be a safe place for people to report instances of those issues.

The Interdenominational Ministers Action Council hosted hearings in New Castle County earlier this summer. Hundreds of people turned out. 

Now, attention is now turning to Delaware's capital region. According to the city of Dover, state government employs 4,500-5,000 people just within the capital city. 

There are about 14,000 executive branch state workers statewide. About one-third of those are minority. Most of those - about 3,700 people - are African-American.

"Because we're here in Dover, we should be paying closer attention to it than we have been," said La Mar Gunn, president of the Central Delaware Branch of the NAACP. "Folks weren't just made aware of these things last month or the month before. This has been going on for years. And it's been overlooked. It's time that somebody starts to pay attention to it."    

But IMAC board member Rev. Lawrence Livingston says it was recent discussions that sparked the hearings.

"Several members of our congregations were coming to us talking about the discrimination and the treatment they were receiving as they worked for state government," he said.

Issues brought up were widespread and wide-ranging - from people overlooked for promotions to retaliatory actions to outright racism. Livingston says people often did go through proper channels after an alleged problem arose.

"Since 2012 there have been as many as 190 EEOC complaints. Only one of those was substantiated," said Livingston.

He says something isn't right there.

Gov. Jack Markell sent a letter to the state employees encouraging these hearings and adding he'd been convinced "there are valid concerns to hear."
Gunn wants more than a letter after the meetings.

"I expect the governor to finally step up and not just talk or put things in writing but actually do something," he said.

The letter from Markell assures people testifying that they'll be "protected against acts of reprisal for reporting harassment or discrimination."

Members of the media are not being allowed into these hearings. WBOC was told that is to protect the confidentiality of the employees.

After all these hearings, the groups will present a report to the governor and general assembly, making recommendations about systemic and institutional changes in Delaware.

Hearing Schedule:

Aug. 25, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Smyrna
Divine Empowerment Christian Church

Aug. 27, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Dover
Whatcoat United Methodist Church

Aug. 28, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Harrington
St. Pauls AME Church

Sept. 1, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Lewes
Friendship Baptist Church

Sept. 2, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Seaford
Immanuel House of Praise

Sept. 3, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Laurel
Mt. Pisgah AME Church

Click here to register for a hearing.

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