The mayor of a Georgia town is accused of discrimination against a Black job candidate after she allegedly removed his resume from consideration “because he is Black, and the city isn’t ready for this.”
The the Atlanta Journal Constitution obtained documents and interviewed city officials in almost all white Hoschton, Ga., who said the town’s mayor, Theresa Kenerly told a city council member that she pulled Keith Henry’s application from a group of four finalists because of the color of his skin.
Hoschton, which sits 50 miles outside of Atlanta with less than 2,000 residents is experiencing tremendous growth. But the AJC reports the city has a seriously flawed hiring process and there has been issues with race throughout city government.
When asked about the accusations, Kenerly initially said “I can’t say I said it or not said it.”
She later released a statement denying the remark.
“I do not recall making the statement attributed to me regarding any applicant for the City Administrator position, and I deny that I made any statement that suggest [sic] prejudice,” she said.
Henry said he didn’t think Kenerly was being biased during the interview process. But admits he’s not surprised by the racist claims.
“It comes with the territory,” he said. “If you live in America as a minority you can’t be naïve that it is the reality that you face.”
Kenerly allegedly made the comment during a March 4 closed door session to the council member and then reportedly repeated the comments to Councilwoman Hope Weeks outside after the meeting, according to a document released by the city in response to an open records request from the AJC.
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“She proceeded to tell me that the candidate was real good, but he was black and we don’t have a big black population and she just didn’t think Hoschton was ready for that,” Weeks wrote in an account dated March 4.
Weeks then shared the comments with Councilwoman Susan Powers. They took the comments and their concerns to city attorney Thomas Mitchell.
“Both of us were just appalled, so we thought we had to do something to stop it,” Powers said.
Weeks issued a statement offering her thoughts on the mayor’s comments.
“Mr. Henry was a very professional and qualified candidate who was a finalist for the position of city administrator before withdrawing to accept another position,” she said. “I am thankful for the opportunity to serve the citizens of Hoschton, but this has been one of the most challenging seasons of my life.”
Mitchell has now enacted a process where Kenerly can attend interviews but not participate in the hiring process.
“She is not going to speak or ask questions,” attorney Mitchell wrote.
In emails, Powers however voiced her dismay in the mayor’s ability to be a continued part of the hiring process for a city administrator.
“Since she corrupted this entire process by trying to shield the application of Mr. Henry from Council members and then making the comment to the effect that while he is qualified he should not be considered because he is black and the city is not ready for this, she should not be a part of this hiring process,” Powers wrote. “I am appalled that in 2019 an applicant would not be hired based solely on the color of their skin.”