Feds look for discrimination in Harahan



Posted on June 15, 2012 at 7:07 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 10:04 AM

Melanie Hebert / Eyewitness News
Email: mhebert@wwltv.com | Twitter: @melaniehebert

Stanley Robey has worked for the City of Harahan as a contractor for more than seven years and says he has never been treated differently because he is black.
"They treat me really nice here, so there's no discrimination. That's crazy," Robey said.
Robey was one of about 20 people who gathered at City Hall this morning to hear why the Department of Justice is investigating the city over discrimination charges.
Senior Trial Attorney Rachel Hranitzky asked the crowd, "Does it bother you at all there are no blacks or persons of color on the police and fire department right now?" People shook their heads and said, "no" including seven women and Robey, who was the only black person in attendance. Several in the crowd noted that they would be upset if people were being turned away from jobs because of race or sex, but none of them believe that is happening.
Hranitzky said she is not targeting Harahan, but the city is part of dozens of Louisiana jurisdictions that she is investigating. Thirty-three jurisdictions were originally named in a discrimination lawsuit back in 1977. Twenty-four of them remain part of a 1980 consent decree to ensure equality, including Harahan.
"I'm not here because I believe that you discriminate against blacks and women," Hranitzky told the group. "I'm here to find out whether or not you do discriminate against blacks and women.
But Hranitzky's effort was met with confusion and frustration.
"The best thing for the federal government is to get the heck out of here," said one man in attendance.
"I don't think the crowd really understood what the issue was," explained Harahan Civil Service Commission Chair Barbara Windhorst. "Originally they got a little bit on the defensive side because they felt Harahan was being accused of something."
Harahan Mayor Vinny Mosca said he didn't know anything about the consent decree until the Department of Justice notified him.
"I've been mayor for over a year, there's been no correspondence within that year other than the letter we got last month," said Mosca. "And there's no documentation of the consent judgment at City Hall. She had to give me a copy of it."
But the city now plans to make more of an effort to recruit female and black employees. Mosca said the city has no black employees at all, considering Robey is a contractor, and the fire department has no female employees.
"We haven't done anything to discriminate or not hire any individual," said Harahan Fire Chief Todd St. Cyr.  "We've had a pool of applicants to choose from in the past and that's what we've done."
Meantime Hranitzky said she hasn't found any evidence of discrimination in Harahan to this point.
"If they're not applying just because they don't want to work in the City of Harahan then there's nothing wrong with that and there's no discrimination occurring," explained Hranitzky regarding minorities.
The Department of Justice cited census numbers in Harahan that include the black population at about 2 percent. The department said it will reach a decision when all the information is fully analyzed.
To read the consent decree click here.