By Doni Glover
(LA PLATA, MD – October 6, 2023) – Charles County Commissioner Thomasina Coates is experiencing a case of reverse discrimination in Charles County, MD. Check out this Q&A as she explains what is going on and how she came to be a target of racially-motivated actions against her.
Q: Commissioner Coates, you‘ve been at the center of controversy in Charles County that’s erupted into name-calling and your being the target of vicious attacks because you tried to cast a deciding vote to terminate the at-will employee who was serving as county administrator in your county in December 2022. But you were not allowed the vote because of a censure imposed on you in 2020, before your second election. What is that about?
You’re right. In 2022, there was a completely new sitting Board of Commissioners. In last December’s session – 2022, the President opened the session by saying I could vote. In fact, I was the deciding vote on the termination. County residents may not know or understand that I was also the deciding vote in 2020 to terminate this same employee when the censure was put in place.
Q: Help us understand how voting to terminate an at-will employee turned into news stories claiming that the 2020 censure was due to an investigation that claims to have proven racial discrimination by you against this employee. I assume he was white?
That’s right. It’s a false allegation and the coverage has been a vicious assault on my reputation. For a little insight into 2020, I only saw a summary of this so-called investigation. I never saw the whole report until this year when my attorney obtained a copy.
Q: What did it say?
It’s quite a fantasy document in which the attorney said that the employee’s claim against me was that “he was subjected to an abusive and hostile work environment.” I should note here, that that is a conclusion the so-called investigator came to.
From his rehiring – after being previously let go by the way – I can say that our relationship was challenged.
But as I said in my statement last May – when I was finally able to speak, when the employee was asked if my treatment of him was related to his race he said, “Coates has been upset with me because I am not willing to be a willing ally in making race-based decisions to advance her agenda.” He even went on to say he did not think Coates treats him this way because he is white.
In January, to dig in I guess, two of my fellow commissioners filed a lawsuit that this employee joined which attempts to accuse me of racial discrimination.
We’ve been in court since then, wasting over a million dollars of taxpayer’s money because we can’t fire an at-will employee! It’s not an effective use of taxpayer money.
And really Doni, that’s the story in a nutshell but it’s nothing but a distraction and camouflage of what really going on in Charles County.
It’s really a story about change in Charles County and three policy choices the Board of Commissioners made to deal with change effectively and to advance fairness and equity in the county.
Those choices are what the county administrator called my race-based agenda!
Q: You say Change in Charles County is the real story, changes agreed to by the whole Board, – not just you. What changes are you talking about???
Doni, change is happening in Charles County. Our demographics have changed. Our population now is 60% black and brown. That makes this demographic group of taxpayers financing a large portion of the county budget. And that investment in the county gives them the right to expect fair and equal treatment in county employment, in county services, and in business dealings such as county procurement.
Those are the issues the Board made three sound, fair decisions about. For instance:
- We established racial competency and diversity goals for county government. As I said in my statement, these goals in a county with a workforce that’s in the area of 60% white, doesn’t suggest a wholesale firing of employees but simply establishes a mandate and guidelines for hiring managers to strive for a diverse qualified pool of applicants for all jobs as people leave, retire, and in new positions. (When a commissioner inquired about the status of 3 minority applicants, he was told that the question was discriminatory)
- We budgeted for a Diversity Study in 2020. I’m sad to say that, as we expected the Study revealed very poor performance, specifically addressing discrimination in the county’s procurement process for women and minority-owned businesses. It’s value to us and to the county going forward, however, was that it was a benchmark against which we could measure future performance. (the county administrator attempted to withhold the release of the report because he objected to its direct language in which it addressed “discrimination in the county’s procurement process for women and minority-owned businesses.”
- Lastly, we passed a budget to hire a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion professional to guide us through the process of the changes that were occurring. (she was rebuffed by the county administrator at every turn, and did not release the strategic plan she prepared before she left nor did he release her exit interview.)
The administrator undermined these initiatives from the time he returned as administrator. And, during that time, he was the subject of numerous allegations of discrimination or retaliation. I fielded several reports from people who had reported his behavior but who had not received responses or notice of investigation.
Q: How did this evolve between you and this employee?
Doni the process plays out. As a Commissioner, I’m a single vote in 5 potential votes. The administrator was hired by a vote of the Commissioners in February 2019, without my vote. I’m not sure how he became the candidate and I don’t know if the position was posted publicly. I was new, I didn’t know him. Maybe it started because I voted against his hiring. Why? Because I thought his contract was fiscally irresponsible, which I still do today.
Early one day he met with all the commissioners. My antenna went up when he came to see me and mentioned: 1) that he’d spoken with one of the other commissioners about our racial competency and diversity goals, to which he said he was committed, and 2) he mentioned that he knew I had not voted in favor of his hiring.
Ultimately, from the time of the Censure through last December, the rules of the censure were that I have no direct contact with the employee and my work had to go through the President or Vice-President. It was ridiculous and juvenile!
Q: How’d you get to last December’s vote to fire this same employee?
In the December 2022 session, this employee and another were on the Personnel Agenda to be terminated. There’s no doubt in my mind that the agenda was leaked. When the discussion came up on the first employee to be terminated – a high-level employee by the way- that person asked an HR employee to read his contract so the Board of Commissioners could see that he could only be fired by the administrator!
And this was the other key reason for my not voting for the administrator’s contract: It was not only fiscally irresponsible but it gave him power over employees that essentially gave him more power than the people who had hired him – which is the Board of Commissioners. It meant absolute power over employees, even those whose jobs necessitated equitable treatment and impartiality – like the County Attorney and the Human Resources Officer.
But once again in 2022, a fellow commissioner had asked for my vote to terminate the administrator. I agreed, but with a leaked agenda, the censure was waiting in the wings to be resurrected and I was not allowed to vote.
That brings us to where were until recently, with a frivolous lawsuit against me by fellow commissioners and spending over a million dollars of taxpayers’ dollars to do so.
As I said to reporters recently: The judge’s decision to move to a final injunction instead of a preliminary ruling was both surprising and disappointing. It essentially permanently prohibits my ever having input into an “at-will” employee hired by the Board of Commissioners which includes me. It isn’t a win for county residents and taxpayers; My attorneys have filed a motion for reconsideration.