Carolyn Coleman, Guilford County Commissioner said this week she is disturbed by the racially discriminatory work environment at Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation.
PART is a unit within local government that provides public transport throughout central North Carolina’s 10 counties.
Coleman claimed that Scott Rhine, PART CEO, and General Manager, ignored her concerns when she called him. She also stated that the PART Board of Directors had refused to vote for a closed session to discuss the events, which included a personnel issue.
Coleman, Guilford County’s representative on the 22-member PART Board, stated that she wants the entire board to hear the story and have Rhine, PART employees, undergo diversity training and racial sensitivity.
Coleman stated that she was concerned about a personnel problem involving an African-American woman who had previously worked at PART. Coleman stated that she couldn’t discuss the details of the complaint as it was a personnel matter and must be kept private. Coleman stated that she was concerned about the incident she was told about, especially considering what happened at PART many years ago.
During a Halloween costume day at the PART office, a man brought a noose. The man wearing the noose, who was dressed as a rodeo artist, was not harmed by the fact that others allowed him to bring the rope used by rodeo performers to catch cattle. However, at least one party-goer complained that the noose was offensive for black workers at PART since they were also used in lynchings.
Coleman was also upset when this happened years ago, but he didn’t get any satisfaction.
Coleman stated that nothing happened to this employee.
Coleman has been a member of the PART board for more than a decade. She contacted Sharon Hightower and Marykay Abuzuaiter, two other PART board members, when the incident occurred.
Coleman requested a closed session at the PART board meeting last Wednesday to discuss the latest incident that allegedly involved race. The vast majority of board members voted against the request for a closed session to discuss the newest incident that allegedly involved race.
Coleman stated that it was shocking that Rhine, PARTs CEO hung up on Coleman when she brought the matter up.
She expressed concern, based upon what shed observed, about male employees receiving better treatment at Part than female employees and that there was a racial bias.
Coleman said that he didn’t appreciate me hanging up on him.
Coleman stated that Rhine is under the PART Board’s responsibility and that Rhine has not treated her with the respect due to her boss.
Rhine said that he had a lot respect for Coleman and her long-standing service as a member of the board. However, he stated that there were no racial motives behind the recent personnel action that Coleman was concerned about.
Rhine stated that PART is diverse in both its ridership and its employee makeup. He also added that the office has extensive diversity training, contrary to Coleman’s claims.
We do it all of the time, Rhine stated, adding that Ms. Coleman is not always in my office every day so she can observe firsthand.
Rhine also said that after about an hour of a phone conversation with Coleman that was going nowhere he did say, “This conversation is finished” and hung the phone.