- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2002

Black agents at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms want Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill held in contempt for failing to implement reforms ordered in a $5.9 million settlement involving accusations of racial discrimination.
The agents, in a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, said the Treasury Department which oversees ATF has not made required personnel reforms, provided promised monitoring information, made offers of equitable relief or paid attorneys fees as promised in the 1996 settlement.
"The most important features of the settlement agreement were those which required the department to reform its personnel systems and ensure that equal employment opportunity existed for all employees," said the agents in the suit, filed by attorneys David J. Shaffer and Ronald A. Schmidt.
They told U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth in the motion that the Treasury Department had not "completed nor used its best efforts to complete the mandated reforms in the time required." They said the department missed the settlement agreement's deadline by 16 months, with no anticipated completion date in sight.
Judge Lamberth is expected to rule on the motion in the next few weeks.
Treasury Department officials said it was their policy not to comment on pending litigation.
The agents filed a class-action lawsuit in 1990, citing discrimination in hiring, promotions, discipline, awards, training and assignments.
The agents also said efforts were made to retaliate against them for the lawsuit.
A proposed settlement agreement was reached by Mr. Shafer and Mr. Schmidt for their clients on July 9, 1996, providing for $4.7 million in individual monetary payments to 241 black agents identified in the lawsuit and $1.2 million in attorneys fees. A final settlement was approved by the court on Nov. 21, 1996.
"Unfortunately … respondent has failed to comply with the settlement agreement's clear and reasonably specific directives," Mr. Shafer said.
The suit was filed in federal court in November 1990.
Treasury Department officials, at the time of the 1996 settlement, said the class-action case would provide payments of roughly $19,500 if all those eligible applied for compensation.


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