July 22, 2021

By Antonio Ray Harvey

California Black Media

 

Five months after Judith Blackwell was replaced as the head of two California state committees that oversee affordable housing bonds, she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against California State Treasurer Fiona Ma.

Blackwell, who is African American, accuses Ma of inappropriate behavior, including revealing her bare posterior on more than one occasion. San Francisco’s attorney Waukeen McCoy filed the complaint on Blackwell’s behalf. 

The11-page “complaint for damages” filed in Sacramento County Superior Court on July 13 lists four other allegations: racial discrimination, wrongful termination, disability discrimination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In an email to the Sacramento Bee, Ma said she will defend herself against the allegations.

“I am saddened and disappointed by these baseless claims,” Ma wrote. “I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support I’ve received today. To set the record straight, we have repeatedly refused to respond to the attorney’s attempts to settle. We look forward to bringing the truth to light in court.”

Blackwell’s complaint alleges that Ma provided her with hotel rooms, dinners, jewelry, paintings, and “edible marijuana so that she could go to sleep.” Those charges are made in the “Statements of Facts” section of the complaint.

In September 2019, Blackwell was named Executive Director of the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (CTCAC). CTCAC, and the closely related California Debt Limit Allocation Committee (CDLAC), are chaired by Treasurer Ma. They are considered two of the state’s most robust affordable housing programs.

In the complaint, Blackwell also alleges that she was relieved from her position in January 2020, and that she was given no cause or reason. It also states that Blackwell was replaced by a “less qualified Caucasian female.”

“When (Blackwell) was hired, Ms. Ma assured (Blackwell)that she would have the job for the six years Ms. Ma was the State Treasurer,” the complaint states.

In September 2020, Blackwell explains that she had a stroke and stayed home for two months. Upon her return to work in November 2020, two other individuals were “assigned to the role of Deputy Treasurer, which was the role Ms. Ma told the Plaintiff she would be promoted to,” the complaint stated.

Blackwell also claims that Ma was aware that she was recovering from a stroke and yet assigned her tasks that required two people to complete.

As the Executive Director for CTCAC, Blackwell said she increased housing by 30%. Court records also stated that Blackwell said she “developed and improved CTCAC regulations” and put together a suitable system to accommodate “an additional $500 million in State tax credits provided by the Governor and Legislature to pair with CTCAC’s 4% program.”

Blackwell also created a system to protect renters from being relocated in circumstances where CTCAC was providing funds for rehabilitation.

“(Blackwell) also researched and found a way for CTCAC to provide workforce housing for individuals working in schools from K-1 through K-12. During the time the Plaintiff was  in her role, CTCAC went from a $100 million per year program to a $700 million per year program,” the complaint said.

Ma is California’s 34th State Treasurer. She was elected on Nov. 6, 2018. She made history then as the first woman of color and the first woman Certified Public Accountant (CPA) elected to the position.

Her office processes more than $2 trillion in payments within a typical year and provides oversight for an investment portfolio of more than $90 billion, approximately $20 billion of which are local government funds. Ma also is also in charge of $85 billion in outstanding general obligation and lease revenue state bonds. 

Prior to being elected Treasurer, she was an elected member of the California Board of Equalization from 2014 to 2018. Before that,  she was a member of the State Assembly from 2006-2012, serving as Speaker pro Tempore from 2010 to 2012.

Blackwell has served as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Port of Oakland, the CFO of the City of Atlanta, and as Purchaser and Director of Contract Administration for the City and County of San Francisco.

She began her career as a public finance attorney, specializing in infrastructure projects. She also served as the Executive Director of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce.

Category: News

July 22, 2021

City News Service

 

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, asked the U.S. Justice Department today to investigate the reported existence of a gang of Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies at the Compton Sheriff's Station who call themselves the “Executioners.”

Waters sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting the action.

“I write to ask that the United States Department of Justice take immediate action to address the reported existence of a rogue, violent gang of law enforcement officials, who call themselves the ‘Executioners,’ operating within the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, specifically the LASD Compton station,” she wrote.

The LASD disputed the claims made in Waters' request and sought to shift the issue to the county's homelessness crisis.

 

“The claims made by Congresswoman Maxine Waters are unproven allegations which she is portraying as facts,” the department said in a statement Wednesday. “The ‘whistle blower’ lawsuit she cites was dismissed with prejudice for lack of evidence. What we do have evidence of is the explosion of homelessness in Maxine Waters’ district and throughout Los Angeles County. The peculiar timing of these allegations appear to be a distraction from the many failures, at all levels of government, to address this homelessness crisis.”

Waters wrote that a deputy acting as a whistleblower provided sworn testimony identifying more than a dozen deputies with matching tattoos to symbolize their association with the alleged gang.

“Deputies at the LASD Compton Station reportedly ‘chase ink’, a slang term for a deputy who attempts to win favor with the `Executioners' by committing violent acts in hopes of receiving the group tattoo denoting gang membership,'' Waters wrote.

“The gang allegedly sets illegal arrest quotas, threatens and harasses fellow deputies, and holds parties after shootings, called `998 parties,' which are in part a celebration that a new deputy will be inked by the gang,” Waters said.

“The tattoos worn by the police gang reportedly feature Nazi imagery in disturbing evidence of the violence perpetrated against the Los Angeles community by the LASD gang.”

 “The whistleblower reportedly identified two deputies involved in the death of 18-year-old Gardena resident Andres Guardado in June 2020 as members of the “Executioners.”

The shooting of Dijon Kizzee in South Los Angeles in August 2020 was also described by Waters as an “example of the LASD's excessive and brutal tactics in the Los Angeles community.”

The sheriff's department has said Guardado was reaching for the gun when he was shot while working as what has been described as an informal security guard for a nearby auto body shop. Guardado's family has filed a lawsuit against the county alleging wrongful death and civil rights violations.

Kizzee, 29, was killed after sheriff's deputies allegedly tried to stop him for riding a bicycle in the wrong direction.

The sheriff's department contends Kizzee was fatally shot after he picked up a handgun he had dropped during a struggle with one of the deputies.

The LASD's statement said the fatal shootings cited by Waters “have been thoroughly investigated and turned over to the Los Angeles County District Attorney, Justice System Integrity Division for further investigation and review, along with monitoring by The California Office of the Attorney General and The Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Category: News

July 22, 2021

By Stacy M. Brown

NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

 

Jamaica has put a price tag on slavery and is sending the British government the bill.

State officials of the Caribbean nation said they are asking Great Britain to pay $10.6 billion (USD) in reparations.

The former British colony served as the center of the slave trade, where Africans were kidnapped, enslaved, and forced to work on sugar cane, bananas, and other plantations.

That free and inhumane labor greatly enriched the slave owners.

“We are hoping for reparatory justice in all forms that one would expect if they are to really ensure that we get justice from injustices to repair the damages that our ancestors experienced,” Olivia Grange, Minister of Sports, Youth, and Culture, told the Reuters news service.

“Our African ancestors were forcibly removed from their home and suffered unparalleled atrocities in Africa to carry out forced labor to the benefit of the British Empire. Redress is well overdue.”

In the U.S., Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee has pushed H.R. 40, a bill to form a commission to study reparations for African American victims of the transatlantic slave trade.

“Has anyone addressed the question of slavery and its comprehensive impact on Black Americans in this country? This is what H.R. 40 will do,” Jackson Lee remarked.

While H.R. 40 doesn’t place a specific monetary value on reparations, it does focus on investigating and presenting the facts and truth about the unprecedented centuries of brutal enslavement of African people, racial healing, and transformation.

The bill would fund a commission to study and develop proposals for providing reparations to African Americans.

The commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering adverse effects of slavery on living African Americans and society.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee, who sits on numerous House committees, including the Judiciary, Budget, and Homeland Security, has made the reparations legislation her top priority during the 117th Congress.

“I think if people begin to associate this legislation with what happened to the descendants of enslaved Africans as a human rights violation, the sordid past that violated the human rights of all of us who are descendants of enslaved Africans, I think that we can find common ground to pass this legislation,” Congresswoman Jackson Lee pronounced.

In Jamaica, officials displayed shackles, coffles, slave collars, cotton screws, bear traps, branding irons, and other items used to control slaves as stirring evidence for the case for reparations.

“We need a sense of outrage directed at those who could do such things to other human beings,” Verene Shepherd, a Jamaican resident, wrote in a petition on the Facebook page of the country’s National Council on Reparations.

“Reparations now,” Shepherd declared.

According to the National Library of Jamaica, about 600,000 Africans landed in Jamaica during the slave trade.

“Seized from Spain by the English in 1655, Jamaica was a British colony until it became independent in 1962,” the Reuters report noted. “The West Indian country of almost three million people is part of the Commonwealth, and the British monarch remains head of state.”

Britain prohibited trade in slaves in its empire in 1807 but did not formally abolish the practice of slavery until 1834.

To compensate slave owners, the British government took out a 20-million-pound loan – or $27.7 million U.S. – and only finished paying off the subsequent interest payments in 2015.

Slaves and their descendants have never received compensation.

“I am asking for the same amount of money to be paid to the slaves that were paid to the slave owners,” Mike Henry, a member of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, told Reuters.

“I am doing this because I have fought against this all my life, against chattel slavery, which has dehumanized human life.”

Category: News

July 22, 2021

By Cora Jackson-Fossett

Contributing Writer

 

Governor Gavin Newson called up Assembly member Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) as Newsom signed into law AB 331 to help the state apply resources to reduce crime and stop organized retail theft.

The signing took place July 21 at The Hangout, a small business in Long Beach.

Jones-Sawyer sponsored the legislation to extend the sunset date to January 1, 2026 of the crime of organized retail theft and the California Highway Patrol Organized Retail Crime Task Force.

 

Among the African American law enforcement members attending the event were CHP Commissioner Amanda Ray and San Francisco Chief of Police William Scott.  Also on hand were mayors of the state’s 13 largest cities including L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento along with L.A. Police Chief Michel Moore and several other top police executives.

“Among the most basic needs for all Californians is to feel safe at home, at the park, or walking to school,” Newsom said. “As we pursue nation-leading criminal justice reforms – all with an eye to making our communities safer – a more holistic approach is called for. We must invest in public safety while, at the same time, tackling the root causes of these increases.”

Explaining why he spearheaded the bill, Jones-Sawyer said, “When this first came out with Gov. Jerry Brown, we were really talking about how do we deal with retail theft in a smart way. Number one, we wanted to make sure we went after the organized retail theft felons who were victimizing, not only the people they got involved in this, but also victimizing our retail businesses.

 “We also wanted to make sure that we had a heart and that individuals who were homeless or on drugs  would be able to get services. So, I want to thank this governor for putting in billions of dollars to make sure those individuals can move into services like drug rehab, education and employment and permanently get out of organized retail theft,” he said.

“That’s the ultimate goal here – both philosophies coming together to cure a problem that’s plaguing California right now.  It’s so important that we continue this work that the CHP has been doing successfully for the last few years,” added Jones-Sawyer.

Commissioner Ray said that in the last three years, the CHP Task Force participated in 668 investigations resulting in 252 arrests and the recovery of over $16.3 billion in stolen merchandise. AB 331 will allow the task force to continue its efforts to reduce retail crime with the following actions:

• Collaborate with allied law enforcement agencies and district attorneys to identify and prosecute organized theft rings, recover lost merchandise and reduce associated crime. 

• Collaborate with the retail industry to reduce incidents of theft and strengthen locational safety for shoppers.

• Launch a web-based portal for the public and California retailers to report tips directly to the CHP.

• Continue to partner with allied agencies to offer specialized training and general law enforcement assistance related to auto theft and organized retail crimes.

Category: News

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