JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A co-worker's claim of racial discrimination is what led to the reassignment of district spokeswoman Jill Johnson, according to new documents obtained by Action News.
The Office of Equity and Inclusion received a complaint from Kandra Albury, the supervisor of external communications.
Albury claimed Johnson discriminated against her on the basis of race, according to the investigative report.
The Office of Equity and Inclusion found no evidence to support the claims of discrimination, but Executive Director Josephine Jackson said it did find evidence of "the use of words that have racial connotations and of other conversations that are inappropriate for the workplace."
Albury listed ten items that she felt showed evidence of discrimination on the part of Johnson. One item talked about how Johnson referred to her husband as a redneck. Albury complained, saying when the term is used it's a way of saying a person is "not fond of people of color."
Johnson said she would never "describe the man I am married to in a derogatory manner, and I truly was unaware that referring to him as a redneck would be deemed racially insensitive."
"I am remorseful that this may have caused someone discomfort, but nothing in the extensive training on racial concerns that the Duval County Public Schools, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, or the City of Jacksonville has provided on race ever suggested to me that I should refrain from using the term in question," said Johnson in a response to the findings.
Albury also claimed there were conversations in staff meetings about the ethnicity of Dr. Vitti's wife, who is black. She claimed when Johnson said Vitti's wife was black and they have beautiful children, another colleague named Kelly Bell asked, "Is she all the way black?" Albury said the subject was immediately changed, according to documents. Albury claimed Dr. Vitti's wife's shoes were referenced by Johnson. Albury claimed Johnson said, "She had on some heels that may fly in Miami but they sure won't work here in Jacksonville."
Albury wrote in her complaint that Johnson claimed Albury, in performance reviews, worked slower than other staff in the department, didn't take initiative, did not have leadership skills, and didn't work as a team player. Albury believed Johnson's feelings were of her as an African American woman rather than on the merit of her work. Albury also felt Johnson's demeanor toward her was not as jovial as it was with others in the office.
During interviews of eight people in the Communications Department, Albury was the only one of the three African American workers who were offended by the use of the term, "redneck." The staff also characterized the work environment as "highly effective," work done as a team, and everyone is treated well by Johnson.
However, Superintendent Vitti said it was in the best interest of the school district to have Johnson reassigned.
"Although the term 'redneck' may not be considered insensitive to some, it is to others," wrote Vitti in a statement. "The term evokes the historical perception of intolerance and therefore is inappropriate in the workplace as the leader of a department, namely communications. As we move our district forward, I did not feel that Ms. Johnson should continue to represent the entire school district as its spokesperson."
"However, since my arrival, Ms. Johnson has consistently demonstrated a strong work ethic, persistence, and intelligence and I believe she will continue to contribute to the improvement of the District in her new role," Vitti added.
Johnson is now working in the Human Resources Department. She, and the entire Communications Department, must undergo sensitivity training.