Clay County official who posted racist remark to return to work

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that Clay County Development Corporation Executive Director Pamela Taylor is going back to work later this month, and the governor’s office quickly responded that it wants proof that she hasn’t discriminated against her colleagues or clientele.

Taylor was placed on leave from her position at the Clay County Development Corporation during a national uproar last month after she posted a racist remark about First Lady Michelle Obama online. She was suspended on Nov. 14 after an online petition garnered over 200,000 signatures demanding she be fired from her job.

Just after the Nov. 8 election, where Donald Trump was elected president, Taylor wrote on Facebook, “It will be so refreshing to have a classy, beautiful First Lady back in the White House. I’m so tired of seeing a Ape in heels.”

CCDC board members, President Eunice Thomas and secretary/treasurer Donald Holcomb, suspended Taylor from her job when the original scandal garnered national attention and public outcry. Neither member has responded to repeated calls from the Gazette-Mail, which also states that repeated calls to Taylor and the CCDC have also gone unanswered.

The Clay County Free Press, a newspaper owned by Mountain Media, which also owns the Mountain Messenger, has made repeated calls to the CCDC, and no one has answered the telephone since the scandal broke.

The CCDC is overseen by a 12-member board of directors, one of whom is Taylor. Board members are unpaid and vote on decisions that affect the company’s programs. The CCDC provides services and financial assistance to elderly and low-income Clay County residents.

The board also sets all salaries. According to tax returns filed by the CCDC, Taylor was paid $75,000 in 2008 and $83,000 in 2014. The organization received about $1.5 million in federal funding and $363,000 in state funding in 2014.

According to 2014 U.S. Census statistics, one in four Clay County residents is living below the poverty level.

A letter from CCDC acting director Leslie McGlothin to the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, stated Taylor is set to return to her position as executive director of the private, nonprofit organization on Dec. 23. The Gazette-Mail  reported on that letter, and Taylor’s employment history at the CCDDC, last weekend.

On Tuesday, the Gazette-Mail  also made available a letter from the State of West Virginia Bureau for Medical Services and Bureau of Senior Services to Thomas, asking for “specific guarantees that Ms. Taylor, nor any other employee, has in any way conducted themselves in a discriminatory manner with any recipient, or potential recipient, receiving state services that your organization administers.”

The letter, dated Dec. 7, has been acquired by the Mountain Messenger. The letter states that the Bureau for Medical Services and the Bureau of Senior Services are “requesting copies of the Clay County Development Corporation’s affirmative action plan and anti-discrimination/harassment policies and practices that are in place for the organization.” Harassment can include racial slurs and offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s race or color, the letter said.

“Please also provide the manner by which your employees have previously been trained on these policies,” the letter said.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s office also released a statement on Tuesday: “The State of West Virginia vehemently opposes any discriminatory and harassing sentiments, language or actions,” the statement said. Tomblin’s office stated that the Bureau for Medical Services and the Bureau for Senior Services have contracts with the CCDC to provide essential services to Clay County residents.

“As a result of recent comments made by the Corporation’s director, Ms. Pamela Taylor, we have been and continue to review those contracts to determine any alternatives the state might have,” Tomblin’s office said.

According to last weekend’s Gazette-Mail article, Taylor was briefly removed from her job at the CCDC two times before becoming executive director in 2007. The article reported that Taylor and two other employees lost their jobs once in 1999 when the CCDC board was restructured; Taylor and the others were ordered reinstated by a judge. The article also reported that Taylor said she was removed from her job again in 2002 after she was accused of “pocketing fundraising dollars, but was hired back after a few months.”

In 2009, the CCDC listed job requirements for the executive director position that included, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree with 10 years’ experience. The article reported that Taylor said in a 2008 deposition that she attended Clay County High School and had no college education. “Prior to joining the Clay Development staff in 1989, she was a cosmetologist,” the article said.

The article also said that CCDC staff members refused to give the Gazette-Mail  the most recent copy of the organization’s bylaws. It also says that Taylor has been sued twice by CCDC employees for wrongful termination. She was sued by Brenda Baird, who worked as a bookkeeper from 2000-2007, who said that Taylor fired her in retaliation for telling a board member about questionable raises that were double the standard amount and some employees getting bonus checks. In her lawsuit, Baird also said she found discrepancies on tax forms produced by Taylor.

The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2009, and Baird declined to comment to the Gazette-Mail, citing a gag order.

The CCDC was also sued last year by Janet Fitzwater, who worked as secretary for the company from 1998-2010. That lawsuit was dismissed in March 2015.

Taylor wasn’t the only person who has been exposed since the racist Facebook post. Clay County Mayor Beverly Whaling resigned from office Nov. 15. She had liked and commented on Taylor’s Facebook post, saying “Just made my day, Pam.” Her name was also included in the online petition demanding she be removed from office.

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