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Reinstatement of DOT engineer irks state NAACP

Posted July 11, 2008
Updated July 14, 2008

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— The state Department of Transportation is facing a complaint about its rehiring a white Cary engineer who had been fired for assaulting a black school-bus driver last year.

The state chapter of the NAACP took offense when the department reinstated Derry Schmidt. DOT had fired Schmidt after he was charged in the incident, which happened May 23, 2007, in a parking area outside Cary Elementary School.

The jury that convicted Schmidt of assault acquitted him of committing a hate crime. He apologized to bus driver Jametta Lynette Farrar of Raleigh for using a racial slur, but said race was not a factor and that he had been angry.

After he was fired, he appealed to the state Office of Administrative Hearings and got his $77,000-a-year job back.

“We felt that it was so horrendous at the time, it would impact the work at the office as well as his colleagues and it was worthy of termination,” Secretary of Transportation Lyndo Tippett said Friday.

Tippett said he understands why some people are angered by the decision to reinstate Schmidt, but that the agency had no choice.

“The conditions in which you can fire an employee for conduct in the workplace as well as outside the workplace are pretty well-defined by state statute,” the secretary said.

Looking at the actions from outside DOT, Rev. William Barber, NAACP state president, said, “That is deeply troubling for us. It is not the kind of atmosphere that we ought to have in state government.”

Barber says he and many of DOT's black employees are outraged. As a result, the organization plans to call for an examination into the department’s hiring and firing practices.

“I wonder what would happen if it had been an African-American who had been found guilty, who had engaged in some type of racial activity, been charged with racist behavior? Would he be reinstated? Would a deal have been cut?” Barber asked.

As the dispute over Schmidt’s reinstatement goes on, a bill that would increase penalties for racial intimidation is bottled up in committee in the General Assembly.

Committee members delayed a vote to give lawmakers more time to consider proposed changes. As written, the bill would make it a felony to burn a cross or hang a noose with the intent of intimidation.

One lawmaker proposed adding burning the American flag to the list. Another wanted to remove racial and religious qualifiers from the bill.

11 Comments

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  • terrydactyl42 Jul 14, 2008

    FYI - there are inaccuracies in this story as reported by WRAL. Mr. Schmidt was not fired AFTER being convicted for assault. He was fired BEFORE he had gone to trial for any of the charges.

  • OrdinaryCitizen Jul 11, 2008

    I'm divided on the issue but this statement is clearly true...
    "Why doesn't the NAACP focus there energy on something more productive"

  • whatusay Jul 11, 2008

    I like it if the NAACP is against it. The NAACP does not have a clue what their mission is, or should be. Anything to keep race tension thriving is their mission. If the man can do his job he deserves to be working, whether the NAACP likes it or not.

  • FE Jul 11, 2008

    Now there is some "breaking news" for sure! As best I can tell, the NAACP gets upset over just about anything that does not meet its own perceptions of fairness.

    The State Personnel Act has very specific rules (except for those who are exempt employees) regarding termination without cause. I suggest the NAACP powers that be familiarize themselves with the rules before jumping to "racial" conclusions.

  • grenlyn1 Jul 11, 2008

    You know what Irks me? The fact that the NAACP is now dictating who can and can not work in American businesses. Someone has to draw the line and set the record straight sooner or later. I think the NAACP should stand-up and demand Jessie Jackson to step down because he can not keep his trap shut and leave other people alone!

  • districtcadvocate Jul 11, 2008

    DOT tolerated the "nooses" in the work place so hiring back this fellow is not out of character for this department.

  • Mobile Geek Jul 11, 2008

    People need to get a thicker skin.

  • Halyard Jul 11, 2008

    “I wonder what would happen if it had been an African-American who had been found guilty, who had engaged in some type of racial activity, been charged with racist behavior? Would he be reinstated? Would a deal have been cut?” Barber asked.

    So fast it would make your head spin!!

    My white African-American friends still live right down the street.

    BTW, the term "African-American" makes no sense to me.

  • chrbellm9 Jul 11, 2008

    Here we go again, when will it ever end??????????? Why doesn't the NAACP focus there energy on something more productive, like talking to there community about raising there children better and cutting down on the number of unwed mothers 4 times over?????

  • mrr03 Jul 11, 2008

    The State fires a Trooper for mishandling a dog but rehires this guy after he was convicted of assault on a school bus driver.. Folks the Easley administration is not as smart as a fith grader..On second thought maybe if we get some fifth graders to run State government we would be in better shape..I will be glad when November gets here, I'm voting Republican

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