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San Diego County Investigating Allegations Of Employee's Racist Social Media Posts

 February 27, 2020 at 10:20 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego chapter of the NAACP displayed a PowerPoint presentation to the County board of supervisors. This week. Its content was disturbing. It showed the supervisors images of racist social media posts, allegedly made by a County employee and even more disturbing. The employee in question is in charge of helping low income San Diegans obtain section eight housing. Joining me is KPBS reporter Prius Sharifa and Priya. Welcome. Thank you. The person at the center of this controversy is a housing specialist. What can you tell us about him and the type of work he does at the County? Speaker 2: 00:37 So essentially he meets with people who, um, get section eight housing and he's sort of responsible for distributing the vouchers and making sure that people are meeting the right income bracket to be eligible for those vouchers. So this all came about because an African American disabled woman, uh, was actually in a meeting with him and felt as though she was being harshly interrogated as the way that the NAACP described it. She actually notified his supervisor and also filed a complaint with the local San Diego branch of the NAACP. They started looking into it. They didn't want to make these allegations public until she was switched to a different case manager. Once that happened, that's when they decided to come to the County board of supervisors and uh, present the PowerPoint that also included a lot of, um, racist memes that he had shared allegedly on his social media. So, um, essentially what the NAACP is saying here is that the County was notified. This man's supervisor was notified what was done about it. Had there been similar complaints against this employee in the past? Speaker 1: 01:43 He's been named in other media reports, but not by KPBS. Why Speaker 2: 01:47 I didn't feel comfortable identifying him at this point because we weren't able to independently verify that those social media accounts actually belonged to him. So just to be a responsible journalist, I felt as though his name honestly wasn't really important to the story. It wasn't what made this news worthy. What made it newsworthy is the county's response and how they go about their hiring practices, which is really what the NAACP wants them to be looking at. Speaker 1: 02:11 Can you describe for us the kinds of posts we're, we've been talking about here? The kinds of posts the NAACP brought to the awareness of the supervisors. Yeah. Speaker 2: 02:20 So they were, they divided their presentation into three categories and one was a lot of memes and posts that he shared about illegal immigrants. The second group was about African Americans, and the third was about Muslims and some of them were characatures of a Senator, Kamala Harris as a prostitute. Um, the former speaker of the house here in California as a pimp. Um, he had characterized, uh, Michelle Obama as being quote, fluent and ghetto. He had shared some memes that had, I'm frankly not correct, not accurate facts. Uh, that said that 95% of warrants that were issued in Los Angeles County for murder were for immigrants. So just, you know, essentially what the NAACP is saying here is that, you know, uh, when you look at the demographics of people who are living in section eight housing, oftentimes these are the most vulnerable members of the San Diego community. They're oftentimes people of color, uh, people obviously who aren't making a lot of money. Speaker 2: 03:17 And so if this is the way that this man feels about those certain groups, is he really going to be able to be in that position and be giving out a housing voucher is in a fair manner. The NAACP told supervisors that racist sentiments against section eight applicants might be shared by others in the County housing department. Why did they make that claim? Right? So I mean that's really what they want to look into. Um, I talk to them and ask them what, what do they want done by the County at this point? Um, I did also get a chance by the way, to speak to the County and they said that their chief administrative officer, Helen Robins Meyer asked the office of ethics and compliance to begin a thorough investigation immediately. And that includes one and, uh, what the County knew about this situation. So the NAACP, I asked them, you know, what, what do you guys want out of this? Speaker 2: 04:04 And they said they want to know that there are best practices being done when it comes to human resources with the County and that these people are being vetted thoroughly. Perhaps their social media should be looked at. But even further than that, they want to make sure that discrimination didn't actually happen when it comes to that department. So that's something that could perhaps take a little bit longer to dive into. Now for the social media posts themselves, could that County worker be fired? So that's a great question because obviously this brings up a matters of freedom of speech. And so I was not really able at this point to find out if the County has a policy for their employees about what they're allowed to share or talk about on their personal social media. And this is something that you know, impacts everyone who is a worker in, in companies. And oftentimes companies will have explicit policies. It's unclear if the County has one at this point. So I don't know if there could be any disciplinary action against this employee unless they can somehow determine that he was in fact discriminating when it comes to how he was divvying out those vouchers. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter [inaudible] Priya. Thank you. Thank you.

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The San Diego County Office of Ethics and Compliance is investigating racist social media posts, allegedly written by a county employee responsible for helping low-income people get housing subsidies.
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