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Georgia GOP chief faces racial discrimination complaint

The head of the Georgia Republican Party is facing new allegations that he racially discriminated against an employee.

A lawsuit filed in Atlanta's federal court accuses John Padgett of regularly engaging in "bigoted, racist and sexist commentary about employees" at his ambulance firm and of encouraging similar behavior from other white managers.

It was brought by Vanessa Dewberry, a former manager of Southeast Ambulance Inc., a firm run by Padgett. Dewberry, who is black, recorded a February 2014 meeting in which Padgett referred to a staffer as a "black tech that's supposed to know better" in what she said was a demeaning manner.

A spokesman for Padgett declined to immediately comment on the litigation.

It's the second racial discrimination complaint lodged against Padgett within a year. Qiana Keith, a former Georgia GOP employee, filed a July 2014 complaint against the party claiming the organization's employees humiliated her and referred to her with a racial slur. That case is still pending.

In Dewberry's recording, Padgett also described a female employee as "the one that looks like a boy." Several other employees at the meeting, who aren't named in the complaint, question the staffer's gender. One refers to the employee as "it."

The comments, she said, were part of a pattern of "similar offensive racist and sexist commentary" from Padgett. She complained to him immediately after the meeting, but said it was to little avail.

She said she was fired due to "financial problems" a few days later. When she threatened to file a workplace discrimination complaint, she said, Padgett noted he had powerful friends. The complaint also names Padgett's wife, Mary, and his ambulance company.

The lawsuit was filed by Kim Worth, an attorney with Thrasher Worth, who declined comment. Worth last year represented ex-ethics chief Stacey Kalberman in a lawsuit claiming she was unfairly forced from her post for too aggressively investigating ethics complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal. A jury awarded Kalberman more than $700,000 after a weeklong trial.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.