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Ashley Farmer sues Greenwood, Convention and Visitors Bureau for racial discrimination

Monday, January 24, 2022, 2:07 pm News Flash Archive

Ashley Brock Farmer, an employee of the Greenwood Convention and Visitors Bureau (GCVB), has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the City of Greenwood and its Convention and Visitors Bureau alleging racial discrimination.

The lawsuit may be seen here: Farmer v. Greenwood and CVB Complaint

Farmer has worked for the GCVB for 4 years, most recently as the interim Executive Director after Danielle Morgan left that position in July 2021.

But things turned cross when the GCVB selected an African American man as its new Executive Director, passing Farmer over.

Farmer claims it's because she is white.

The Greenwood City Council met behind closed doors to consider hiring a legal firm to defend against the lawsuit. Nobody would admit what the lawsuit was about, except that it involved the GCVB, which is a commission created by the city to promote tourism in the community.

According to the Greenwood Commonwealth, Don Brock, Jr., the city's attorney, left the closed-door meeting near the beginning. The lawsuit's plaintiff, Ashley Farmer, is Don Brock's sister.

In her complaint, Farmer claims she was the person who should have been hired:

Plaintiff was the natural candidate for the position of director, since she had had four (4) years' experience as being the second person in charge, and since Plaintiff had actually functioned as interim director, although not given that official title, for approximately six (6) months.

But, she charges, racial discrimination steered the GCVB to another candidate:

The majority of the members of the Board of Directors, however, are black. The majority members, influenced by certain ex officio members, wanted only a black person to hold the position. The members were determined that a black person would have the position, as manifested by several statements by members, including statements that since the City of Greenwood is predominantly black, then the director should be black; and stating, falsely, that Plaintiff had not promoted the interests of black businesses.

Instead, Farmer claims, the commission hired someone she accuses of being unqualified:

Defendant ultimately offered the position to a person who had no experience whatsoever in the hospitality business, and whose relevant qualification is being black. This person is not a resident of Greenwood, and he lacks knowledge of Greenwood's businesses and its attraction for potential businesses. The hiring was made on pure racial lines, with the majority of the black members voting for the black director and the minority white members wanting to hire Plaintiff as the logical candidate.

To add insult to injury, the commission voted last December to cut Farmer's pay by $10,000, as she puts it, "in an apparent effort to make Plaintiff quit."

Farmer's complaint concludes:

Race is the reason why Plaintiff was not hired as director, and race is the reason her pay was decreased. The new black director, who was hired for the job Plaintiff should have received, has admitted that he cannot perform the job without Plaintiff. Furthermore, the director has admitted that several of the board members solicited him to take the job.

Farmer demands that she be installed as Executive Director, and receive damages, including attorney fees and costs.

Farmer is represented by Jim Waide, a well known civil rights attorney from Tupelo. The City Council voted to hire Phelps Dunbar, LLP to represent the city at last Friday's special called meeting.

Video coverage of the GCVB meetings may be seen here:

January 10, 2022 meeting - most recent vote setting Farmer's salary

December 13, 2021 meeting

November 8, 2021 meeting

October 18, 2021 meeting

October 14, 2021 meeting - Farmer appointed interim Executive Director

John Pittman Hey
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