Protesters urge Neuman to combat Arundel bias

About 20 people demonstrated Tuesday outside the Arundel Center in Annapolis to implore County Executive Laura Neuman to do more to combat what they see as racism and discrimination in county government.

The demonstration focused on two complaints: that Neuman has not appointed any racial minorities as department heads since she took office in February, and allegations of discrimination in hiring in the county library system.

At least three library workers — all black men — have filed discrimination lawsuits against the county.

In court filings, county lawyers have denied any discrimination.

The demonstrators passed out copies of an open letter to Neuman and waved signs with slogans such as "Libraries should reflect the communities they serve" and "Neuman said 'zero tolerance' on workplace discrimination and has resulted in 'zero' action."

About 20 minutes into the demonstration, Neuman invited organizers inside for a closed meeting that lasted about 45 minutes.

She told reporters after the meeting that she's taking steps against discrimination, including plans to hire a compliance officer who would review complaints independently. She's also ordered a review of the county's anti-discrimination and human relations efforts.

Neuman said she's heard complaints about discrimination, but added: "I don't have the impression it's a systemic problem."

Neuman said she doesn't hire based on race, but based on qualifications.

"I have a long history of hiring diverse teams," she said.

Cyrus Scott, a former library employee from Crownsville who helped organize the demonstration, said he was glad to meet with Neuman.

Scott is part of a lawsuit alleging that he and another black driver for the library system had to work in unsafe conditions. Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Philip T. Caroom ruled Tuesday that the case can proceed to trial.

Scott praised Neuman's idea of hiring a compliance officer, but said that alone won't be enough.

"I'm hopeful," he said. "We're supposed to meet again. We'll see."

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