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Biting the Hand That Needs

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At City Hall in Fort Lauderdale, meanwhile, it's business as usual. Lamar's job was posted while she was still on suspension in September 1996, and it was filled in April 1997 by Yolanda Goodloe Cowart. Since that time Cowart has developed a diversity action program that includes cultural diversity training. She also created a Managing Diversity Committee, a board of top city managers charged with developing diversity policies, creating goals, and guiding the city as it pursues those goals.

"We're not just looking at reactive things but proactive things," Cowart says. "Sure, some employees have issues, but we're trying to resolve them internally."

Not all get resolved. Clyne says he's taking on only cases involving incidents that took place within the last six months, and his plate is full with more than twenty.

Clyne has just begun taking depositions in Lamar's case, and a trial date is nowhere in sight. The top managers named as defendants have filed dozens of motions to avoid answering questions under oath. Lamar isn't surprised. The city, she says, is doing what it's always done: refusing to acknowledge that it tolerates racism, sexism, and favoritism. What's even worse, she adds, is that the white managers are responsible for making decisions that effect all of the city's residents. So why not listen when a black woman, who is an expert in racial issues, says that something is wrong?

"It's like you're stepping on my toe," Lamar says, "and you're telling me not to holler. You don't feel it or understand why I'm hollerin', but you have to trust me that I feel it and get off.

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Lucy Chabot

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