U.S. EPA has cleared the director of its Office of Civil Rights of wrongdoing after a national whistle-blower group accused him of making sexist and racist remarks amid agency colleagues. On April 20, the National Whistleblowers Center (NWC) sent EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson a letter calling for the dismissal of OCR Director Rafael DeLeon claiming that he called two female civil rights leaders "pink elephants" on an agencywide conference call.
The term "pink elephant" was popularized during the 2008 campaign by then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to refer to women who were outraged with the political status quo. But NWC Legal Director Richard Renner argued in his letter that DeLeon used the term to stereotype and demean women who deviate from expectations of submissiveness. He also charged that DeLeon disrespectfully referred to one of the women, NWC board member Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, as "the Rosa Parks of EPA."
Officials with EPA promised to conduct an internal review of the matter.
In a statement, EPA concluded:
"EPA looked into the allegations and found no basis for any further action."Instead, the agency took the opportunity to praise the work DeLeon has done to turn around EPA's much-maligned civil rights program. Jackson appointed DeLeon as OCR director late last year.
In an open letter to Jackson last week, Coleman-Adebayo said that DeLeon's dismissal is necessary to fix the "culture of intolerance and retaliation" at the agency.
EPA fired Coleman-Adebayo in 2008 after she refused to come into the office for work because of hypertension and other medical issues. DeLeon was the supervisor who recommended her removal. (Greenwire, 8/8/2011)