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Wilder Spokesman Made Racist Remarks, Co-worker Alleges

A co-worker who claims the mayor's press secretary made racist remarks in front of her and other city employees resigned earlier this year out of frustration, Style Weekly has learned.

Trinace Johnson, a marketing and public relations specialist for the city, says Mayor L. Douglas Wilder's press secretary, Linwood Norman, refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing or apologize for the alleged remarks.

The remarks were made during an internal discussion about images to be used for a city publication addressing teen pregnancy, says someone familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The source says Norman insisted on using images of African-Americans exclusively -- a suggestion that was interpreted as racially biased.

Norman, who is white, declines to comment.

"Of course African-Americans are the only persons who get pregnant as teens, so why not?" says King Salim Khalfani, executive director of the state NAACP. "That's totally unacceptable."

Johnson, who worked in the press secretary's office for about six months and is also black, describes an office environment that became "unbearable" in the days after the alleged comments.

"I am literally becoming physically sick to have to come into this office and interact with Linwood," she wrote in an e-mail sent to Human Resources Director Tyrone Jackson May 23 and obtained by Style.

"It's not just the fact that Linwood has made racist remarks and has been unapologetic about them," Johnson wrote, "but his nasty and condescending demeanor/behavior is too much for me to handle on a daily basis."

At the end of her letter to Jackson, Johnson urges the human resources director to "continue with the rest of your investigation for the well-being of my co-workers."

Khalfani says that people who make complaints about racism on the job often find their claims dismissed or ignored. "That's how people get so frustrated," he says, "they aren't able to find justice in the internal process."

Johnson, who once worked in public relations for the military, declines to comment for this story.

City officials are similarly tight-lipped. "Needless to say," Jackson says, "I cannot discuss personnel actions." He would not confirm whether Norman was the subject of an investigation. S

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