Tensions were high at the emergency board meeting for Basin Transit Service Wednesday afternoon.
Several current and past employees attended to voice their concerns with Paula Quinn, assistant general manager at BTS.
Earlier this week it was revealed that Quinn was being accused of using racial remarks regarding a black employee, James Barnes.
The union representative filed a grievance against Quinn on behalf of Barnes June 3. Quinn has been on medical leave for the last few days.
Quinn denies ever making the remarks, but employees are anxious to see how the board, and General Manager Mike Stinson, will address the matter.
“Inaction indicates tolerance. Please let everyone know you will not tolerate this,” said Candice Shepherd, a BTS employee who works at the front desk.
Tina Millett spoke on behalf of her husband, Wade Millett, who was fired from the company some time ago. She described an incident in which he was disciplined for making a comment that could be considered racially offensive.
She said Millett asked some fellow employees to speak English, thinking they were speaking about him in Spanish. She said it would be unfair if Quinn was not punished for what she allegedly said to Barnes.
“That’s far worse, he (Wade) was innocent in what he said, she was being hateful, racial,” she said.
Letter of apology
The board released in its agenda its intent to read a letter of apology to Barnes. Before the letter was read, Shepherd expressed her distaste for it.
“An apology is hollow at this point. In 2019 a manager can drop the N-word on someone she’s supervising? Is this 1960?” she asked the board.
After the public comment section of the meeting was over, Stinson said he had read the letter in private to Barnes that morning.
“I sat down with James and read him this letter and expressed my regret and we shook hands and went on,” he said.
The letter offers apologies on behalf of BTS and states that language “that could be considered racist” is not acceptable at BTS — on or off the clock.
The letter also states that BTS has investigated the complaint and will take appropriate action soon.
Finally, the letter states that all BTS employees will be required to complete sensitivity training.
After the letter was read, the board moved on to reviewing the extensive recommendations from legal council on how to improve the organization.
The recommendations include providing bias training. It recommends the use of the Portland company Diamond Law Training. There will be two topics covered: race and ethnicity, and disability.
The training is costly, which worried some members of the board. A half-day training of two modules will cost BTS $1,800, and Stinson clarified that there would need to be two trainings to accommodate the entire staff of 31, with a possible third class for those who can not make it to the scheduled date.
The recommendations also include the hiring of a human resources manager and a finance specialist. They also include the implementation of an anti-gossip policy, an anti-profanity policy, and to provide managerial training.
The meeting went into executive session, which is closed to the public, after Stinson read the recommendations.
After the session, the board motioned unanimously to seek outside legal counsel concerning the legal rights and duties of BTS.
Many in attendance voiced concerns about whether Quinn would be dismissed.
BTS is still in the process of determining what disciplinary actions will be taken as a result of the incident.