- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2002

A federal jury in Georgia has ordered four members of an Atlanta library board to pay nearly $23.3 million in damages for discriminating against eight white librarians demoted after board members said that "there are too many white faces in management."
"This verdict is yet another wake-up call to public entities around the country that everyone is protected under the 14th Amendment," said Kelly Beard, the lawyer who represented the eight librarians in court.
"It seems that there is an assumption out there that it's OK to discriminate against white people. The bottom line is you can't discriminate against anyone."
The 14th Amendment guarantees each person therights, privileges and immunities of citizenship, due process and equal protection.
The attorney representing the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System board of trustees called the verdict "a travesty of justice that will not stand."
"Even a cursory review of the evidence in this case reveals that the verdict has absolutely no relationship to the evidence presented in court or to legal precedent established by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court," said Fulton County attorney Overtis Hicks "O.V." Brantley.
In court documents filed against four members of the system's board of trustees, the eight librarians contended that they were demoted from their managerial positions at the county's central library because they were white. Their positions were filled immediately by eight black librarians.
"I was profoundly shocked that this sort of thing could happen in this country," said Maureen Kelly, one of the librarians who sued the library board. "I couldn't believe how incredibly unjust this was and that it was motivated by race."
The librarians' claims of discrimination were bolstered by memos, handwritten letters and meeting minutes in which board members stated that "there are too many white faces in management" and ordered a study that broke down the management by race.
After a weeklong trial in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, the jury found that four of the 17-member library panel intentionally discriminated against the eight librarians because of their race. The board is made up of 16 members, nine of whom are black, county officials say. One position is unfilled.
The jury did not find any damages against the library system. Jurors found that it was neither the system's policy nor custom to discriminate against its white employees, court documents showed.
The county yesterday filed three motions asking the judge for a new trial, to set aside the verdict and minimize the damages the board members had been ordered to pay.
According to interviews and court documents, the eight librarians were working as department managers at the central library in Atlanta when in May 2000 they were transferred to other library branches. Each of them was assigned to perform clerical duties such as cleaning computer screens and shelving books.
The librarians all of whom hold master's degrees in library science are between the ages of 48 and 68 and have worked for the library system for years. One librarian has been employed by the library system for more than 30 years. The black employees who replaced the eight librarians also had master's degrees in library science.
As a result, the eight librarians filed grievances with the county but received no help. They filed a discrimination lawsuit against the board in October 2000.
While attorneys for the eight librarians called their demotions "reverse discrimination," county officials called it a "reorganization" of the library system.
Ms. Brantley said the eight women were not singled out because they were white. Ms. Brantley said a total of 28 employees, 15 black and 13 white, were affected by the reorganization. "None of the others had any problems with it," she said.
Ms. Brantley said none of the transferred employees was demoted in rank and that no salaries were reduced.
This case is not the first reverse-discrimination case Fulton County has lost.
In 1996, the county settled a lawsuit filed by a white county clerk, who was replaced in 1989 by a black woman, by giving the former clerk $290,000.
That same year, a federal jury awarded $812,000 in damages to 16 former and current white Fulton County deputies who contended that a black sheriff had discriminated against them.
In 1998, the county settled a lawsuit filed by a white firefighter who said he did not get the fire chief position, a post he held temporarily for 18 months, because he was white. The job was given to a black Atlanta fireman.
Ms. Brantley denied any pattern of reverse discrimination in the county.
"Out of the 700,000 employees this county employs, I think the number of cases we have had have been blown out of proportion," Ms. Brantley said. "We have a clear finding by the jury in the current case that there is no pattern."


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