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Edison vice-president accuses school of discrimination

Edison vice-president accuses school of discrimination

CREATED Nov 10, 2011

FORT MYERS - In a 15 page letter to the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Edison vice-president Bob Beeson accuses the school of discrimination in its hiring practices.

In the letter, Beeson writes about an African-American job candidate, Dr. Vivian Lilly, who was under consideration to be dean of the Nursing school.

Beeson said he had "...become increasingly suspicious that there were issues of racism militating against this hire."

Beeson wrote that another administrator, Dr. Steve Atkins, had also become aware problems in the hiring process.

"Atkins came to my office...and told me...'you are not going to believe what (fellow administrator Dr. Jim) Browder just said to me,'" wrote Beeson.

 "Browder's response, Atkins reported, was to say 'Well, you probably know, we havne't had much luck with out-of-state African-American candidates,'" wrote Beeson.

"I was now convinced beyond all doubt that racial discrimination was at work," wrote Beeson. 

Beeson wrote that he and Dr. Atkins went to the school's HR office and reported their suspicions.

"We added that there had been reports of discrimination throughout the college that an African-American candidate position for the Deanof the Hendry-Glades campus had been introduced to members of the community that included a member of the Board of Trustees, and that the trustee has reportedly treated the candidate rudely," wrote Beeson.

In the claim, Beeson also writes about an another black candidate for another position - District Director of Financial Aid.

Beeson claims the candidate "...had gotten to the final stages of the hiring process, only to disappear from consideration." 

Beeson claims after reporting concerns about discrmination, Dr. Browder "...grew increasingly hostile toward me."

Beeson says when another administrator suggested Dr. Browder "smooth things over" with Beeson, Browder "reportedly responded by saying, 'You mean apologize to him? What would I do that when what I really want to do is kick his a**?'"

In his letter to the EEOC, Beeson writes that college president, Dr. Ken Walker, passed him over for a promotion and took that "...to be an indiction that I no longer was in Waker's favor because I had made the report to Human Resources concerning racial discrimnination at the college."

Dr. Walker has repeatedly said Edison does not discriminate in its hiring and points to an internal and external investigation that have been conducted.

But Beeson's letter to the EEOC raise questions about the external investigation conducted by law firm Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt.

Beeson writes, "...a preliminary report of the results of this investigation indicated that there wold be a finding against he college relative to discimination against Dr. Lilly."

Beeson claims a number of witnesses saw Dr. Walker argue "that he had paid for the report, demanded that the language be changed so that there would be no finding, and threatened to withold future Edison State College work."

Beeson says the report was changed and "concluded that racial discrimination had not taken place in the cae of Dr. Lilly."

Dr. Walker has asked the Edison board of trustees to support him in firing Dr. Beeson but he says it's not about discrimination claims.

The board has not given the green light to fire Beeson, instead he's been put on paid leave.

In an interview last week, Dr. Steve Atkins, who was recently fired by Dr. Walker, told 4 In Your Corner he believes he, too, is a victim of retaliation for reporting concerns about discrimination to the school's HR department.

An Edison spokesperson would not comment on the discriminatiaon claims by Drs. Beeson and Atkins, saying the school "does not comment on legal matters."