Local News

Real estate company now says it's 'disassociating' from agent after online posts suggested she used racial slurs

Posted July 6, 2020 8:25 p.m. EDT
Updated July 8, 2020 9:27 p.m. EDT

— A real estate company that reversed course Monday and decided not to cut ties with a Raleigh agent who's the focus of a viral video has changed its mind again and is "disassociating" from her.

Gina Benthuysen, chief executive of Raleigh-based Keller Williams Preferred, said in a statement Wednesday, “We have decided to disassociate with Kim Barnhart while we further investigate the facts on this matter."

The video shows a confrontation at the Lennox at Brier Creek swimming pool on July 1. Those who posted it online say a woman made racist remarks while telling them to leave the pool, but the woman involved, Barnhart, says she was merely enforcing the neighborhood's rules to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Barnhart, a real estate broker for Keller Williams at Brier Creek, is on the homeowners association board for the townhouse complex, and a resident called her to report that a group of teens who didn't appear to live in the neighborhood were at the pool drinking.

During the pandemic, the neighborhood allows only residents to use the pool.

"When I got there, there was a large group of teens I had not seen before, not one of them," Barnhart said Monday. "I asked them who lived in the neighborhood, did any of them live in the neighborhood, and at that time, they all looked at each other, and nobody said that they did."

When she asked them to leave, she said, the group became belligerent.

"They were mooning me, throwing up the middle finger," she said. "They're surrounding my car. I had to get into my car and roll up my windows, telling them, if they weren't going to listen to me, I'd have to get the police involved."

Curt Hamilton posted on Facebook that he and everyone else in the group was 21 and that he "got racially profiled and thrown out of a neighborhood pool." Two of his friends — an African-American and a Latina — live at Lennox at Brier Creek and that Barnhart zeroed in on them.

Hamilton didn't respond to a request for comment on Monday.

In the video he posted, Barnhart doesn't make reference to anyone's ethnicity.

Clara Blanca, the mother of the Latina speaking on video, said Monday that Barnhart said, "They don't belong here" and 'Why don't you go back to Mexico?"

"The only thing they could have twisted is that they did not belong to the pool of the neighborhood as a resident," Barnhart said. "We never discussed Mexico or where anybody was from – absolutely not, absolutely not true."

Keller Williams Chief Executive Gary Keller posted online on July 2 that the company was setting up a task force to come up with plans "to eliminate any racial disparity within our company, our industry, and how we can lead the way in the communities where we live and work."

The following day, the company posted that it was investigating Barnhart's actions in light of the viral video.

Assistant team leader Eric Anderson said Monday that Keller Williams was "retracting the termination of Kim Barnhart," noting that company officials had "some new information and video" about the Raleigh incident.

Anderson said it was clear from the video that the crowd at the pool was breaking rules and behaving poorly and that there was "absolutely no evidence" that Barnhart uttered any racial slurs.

"If you're doing something wrong, own it. Don't make up stories," he said about the crowd at the pool.

Benthuysen's statement said Anderson's comments were premature and that no final decision had been made.

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