Asked by McGovern (Simon’s attorney) if he thought a Jewish person would be offended by a supervisor giving the Nazi salute, Kerlec said, “I don’t know whether they would be or not. I mean … I never even thought about whether anybody would be offended by it. There were so many people (co-workers) egging me on all the time that I just figured — I didn’t think about it.
Kerlec also admitted that he probably used the word “n—-r” on the job during his 32 years as a parish employee, but not among black workers. He also acknowledged receiving extensive parish training with regard to racial discrimination and harassment in the workplace, including warnings not to use racial slurs to describe Jews and African-Americans. He testified that he did not know Simon was Jewish until Simon told him.
Not long ago Parish President Theriot found himself characterized as a modern day Nazi, a Fascist, the Hitler of Jefferson Parish whose arrogance laid bare his stupidity; but more disturbingly his contempt for human rights. “TheRiot”, as Theriot was monikered, knee-jerking imprudently and with the questionable advise of counsel, filed suit against the blogosphere. Having his feelings hurt regarding criticisms of his presumed political stature, TheRiot, salivating to find out the identify of the anonymous commentators, ran into the 1st Amendment wall of Free Speech. Very shortly thereafter, TheRiot dropped the lawsuit, put his head between his legs and waddled off with and holding the hands of his similarly entwined lawyers at Phelps, Dunbar.
That recent escapade is illustrative of sinister forces that have taken hold throughout Parish Government from the top down; an institutionalized dysfunction that is rotting our very fabric of representative accountability. That there is still today in Jefferson Parish Government deep seeded prejudice directed toward Jews, Blacks and Women is abhorrent. Whether it be repugnant pranks of rope nooses directed toward blacks at work or by employees of the District Attorney’s office while a black man is on trial; or the blatant sex and age discrimination against a woman employee as evidenced in the present Whistleblower claim of Anne Marie Vandenweghe; or the insidious race baiting directed toward a Jewish employee, Charles Simon. In all the recited foregoing instances, the discriminatory conduct was either sanctioned and/or condoned by Parish Officials on and within all levels of administrative government.
It would be naive or intentional denial of any reasonable person to believe that such discriminatory conduct is unknown to the Parish President, and in fact it is his and his administrative assistants who are ultimately responsible for the civil and lawful management of government. Period.
Like most other citizens of Jefferson Parish I was unaware of Mr. Simon’s plight while employed in such a toxic workplace environment to which he was assigned; nor did I have any information regarding the diabolical ordeal Mr. Simon was to be subjected to by the Human Resources Dept., through it’s special assistant, Clem Donelon. As in all things Jefferson Parish, cover-up the acts of wrong doing by attacking the victim and reward the person who perpetrates the immoral and unlawful acts is the order of the day. This is exactly what played out in Mr. Simon’s life as a result of his complaining of the constant harassment by Armand Kerlec and others.
Some time susbsequent to the March 8, 2010, the date of Gambit Magazine’s publishing Allen Johnson, Jr.’s article ‘NAZI JOKES IN JEFFERSON PARISH’, this legal blog, Slabbed, pick up the story with a posting relative to the same. What I read was not a joke, but an abominable account of what has gone seriously wrong within Jefferson Parish’s executive branch officials and management level employees; a breakdown of common decency and law and order manifested by a detachment from its own citizenry, that when confronted with the evils of race baiting, these same individuals circle their wagons to protect ‘their’ own. And Armand Kerlec is without a doubt one of their own!
From Mr. Johnson’s reporting we learn:
Jefferson Parish hired Simon in 2000. He transferred to the engineering department in October 2002. Around that time, Simon alleges, Kerlec told him that his department was the “Jewel of the Nile.” Kerlec allegedly added that African-Americans and Jews were not welcome in the department and did not last long there.
Mr. Simon did in fact complain of the harassment by Kerlec, and by complaining he sealed his fate. Shortly after Katrina, Mr. Simon was dismissed on grounds that he did not report back to work soon enough. The arbitrary and capricious nature of this rather absurd determination was to simply cover-up the real reason of his termination, he complained of being subjected to verbal and physically displayed acts of racial insults constantly acted out by Kerlec; all done with the knowledge of his supervisors. What I find equally as disturbing as Kerlec’s conduct is that of Clem Donelon’s, who defended the Parish (in essence Kerlec). Donelon is not paid to represent Kerlec, who should have been advised to get his own lawyer at his own expense. Donelon is there to represent the Parish and not bring shame upon the taxpayers who pay his salary. It is Kerlec that Donelon should have been moving to have fired, and not the victim Simon! There is no duty to defend the indefensible.
Subsequently Mr. Simon filed suit in Federal Court as a result of the racial harassment. Finally after five years his case is settled just prior to trial commencing. He receives a settlement of $95,000 dollars (he will realize less because of his attorney’s fees; his sum is much less than 5 years of salary had he not been denied the opportunity to work ). One of the politically connected contributor firms, Blue, Williams was paid $101,685.89 dollars to take up where Donelon left off, defending the indefensible. Mr. Kerlec has remained employed throughout this period as a Supervisor in the Engineering Dept., with his last reported annual salary for 2009 being $73,952.94 and overtime of $4,341.80. And of course medical, vacation and sick leave, etc. But to add insult to injury, by not being dismissed, Kerlec has been allowed to go into DROP, as he is now 33 years in service, the last three years determinative of his retirement benefits. To have allowed Kerlec to have economically gained at Mr. Simon’s despair can only be described as immoral and reprehensible, if not criminal on the part of all Jefferson Parish officials and management employees who directly or indirectly allowed this to transpire on their watch.
The Gambit reporter interviewed Jefferson Parish spokeswoman Patricia Borne relative to some of the evidence describing Kerlec’s openly obnoxious Nazi comments as we read by way of deposition an excerpt cited in the article:
Brian G. Johnson, who worked for the parish from 1980 to 1990 — more than a decade before Simon was hired by the parish — gave a detailed account of Kerlec’s antics and racial slurs against Jews, blacks and Italians. “Brian Johnson avers that he observed Kerlec make the ‘heil Hitler’ salute in the work place on ‘many’ occasions,” the judge wrote, adding, “Eric Scott wrote an affidavit stating that Kerlec would call [Simon] ‘dumb Dago’ and Kerlec would regularly perform a Nazi salute in front of [Simon]. Most significantly, [Simon] testified that, on the night he was fired, Kerlec told him, ‘I’m firing your dumb Dago ass.
Ms. Borne’s response:
Jefferson Parish has a firm policy regarding harassment and objectionable behavior in the workplace. We take reports of such behavior very seriously. As this information comes to us, we are investigating it and will take appropriate disciplinary action where warranted.
I have also learned that Kerlec is still the Nazi he has always admitted he is and continues to be paid to spew this hatred. It is inconceivable to me that this heinous individual is allowed to be present in any workplace, anywhere.
Ms. Borne you’re a liar, and as such, as disgraceful as your colleagues: the rest of the Parish officials and employees who are not only a part of this sordid episode but are responsible for all the Kerlecs who do their bidding and “do their time” to acquire retirement benefits.
And I have some common sense advice for the next Parish President soon to take office: Sue Kerlec to recover all monies paid to anyone in this matter; and fire Kerlec immediately upon taking office. Additionally sue to have his retirement benefits stripped. Then file a formal complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Dept to have Kerlec prosecuted for racial harassment. This action may also expose Parish Officials and/or employees to conspiracy charges of condoning racial discrimination, and if so, too bad. And most importantly, PUBLICLY APOLOGIZE to Mr. Simon and ask for his forgiveness. Enough is Enough!
I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to Allen Johnson, Jr. at Gambit for having the sensitivity and social awareness to write this “must read piece” and to Gambit Magazine’s adherence to the ideals of true jounalistic integrity, exposing injustice where ever it is found. Publishing this expose is as important today as it would have been in Germany in the 1930’s. Kudos gentlemen!
Slabbed commenter Whitmergate is a member of Citizens for Good Government and is a resident of Jefferson Parish.
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