Angry members of the black community appeared Tuesday evening before Pasadena's Board of Directors to complain anew about what they see as the city's failure to promote and hire minorities.
It was the third such protest in the past three months, sparked this time by the announcement Friday that a top black city administrator had been placed on administrative leave.
Their persistence paid off. The seven-member board, or city council, agreed to personally review the complaints and examine the city's Personnel Department and its affirmative action program.
"It's obvious we need to clear the air, so let's do it," Director John Crowley said.
The third appearance of the activists also prompted angry comment from usually soft-spoken Director Chris Holden.
"People don't know when I'm angry, but my gut is turning," said Holden, son of Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden.
With only six months of experience on the board, Holden said he was willing to listen to and believe staff explanations.
"But when you start to get explanations that are irrational, then you've got to be irrational yourself and deal with it," he said.
The board had been told in previous staff reports that no pattern of racism existed and that the examples cited by the activists were merely coincidences of changing job circumstances.
Tuesday's protest revolved around the fate of Dee Henry, director of the city's Employee Development and Community Services Department. Henry was placed on a "non-punitive, nondisciplinary" indefinite leave with pay, according to Deputy City Manager Ed Aghjayan.
But at Tuesday's meeting, John Kennedy, president of the Pasadena chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, called Henry's leave from the $71,000-a-year post a "prelude to a complete dismissal."
Kennedy and others accused the city of racism and listed five other black city officials who have either resigned, had their positions taken away in reorganization moves or have been placed in temporary jobs for up to two years.
"If it looks like, tastes like and smells like racism, then the overwhelming presumption is that it's racism," Kennedy said.
The problems outlined by Kennedy and others arose, in large part, from the elimination earlier this year of the Community Services Agency, an umbrella department whose five administrators, four of whom were black, were switched to other city jobs when the agency was divided into four separate departments.
But in the shuffle, Doren Wade, who worked as the community block grant administrator, was transferred to a temporary position and his job eliminated, raising the ire of the black community. Wade has since filed a grievance against the city.
The community is also upset about two blacks assigned temporary jobs that provide no employee benefits. One man, Prentice Deidrick, has held a temporary job for nearly two years and another, Eugene Stephenson, for 18 months.