Clay nonprofit official who posted racist comment to return to work

The director of a Clay County nonprofit group, who was removed from her position after making a racist Facebook post about first lady Michelle Obama, plans to return to her job later this month, according to a letter from the agency's acting director.

Pamela Taylor, whose online post referred to Obama as an “ape in heels,” is on suspension and is scheduled to return to work at the Clay County Development Corp. on Friday, Dec. 23, according to the letter from Leslie McGlothin to the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services.

The state bureau's commissioner, Robert Roswall, has warned the Clay agency that any discrimination from staff would jeopardize their state and federal funding.

In a letter dated Nov. 14 — the day media reports about Taylor's Facebook became widespread — Roswall warned that “any discrimination of staff or the customers [they] serve” could cause the agency to lose funding from state and federal agencies. The organization received about $1.5 million in federal funding and $363,000 in state funding in 2014.

Neither Taylor nor McGlothlin has responded to multiple phone calls from the Gazette-Mail.

The Clay County Development Corp. is a private nonprofit organization, and Clay County's second-largest employer, according to a recent study from Workforce WV. The organization provides senior services and financial assistance to elderly and low-income residents of Clay County. According to 2014 U.S. Census estimates, one out of every four people in Clay County is living below the poverty level.

Taylor became the CCDC's director in 2007. She was paid $75,000 in 2008 and almost $83,000 in 2014, according to tax returns from the group. The previous CCDC director, Betty Stalnaker, made about $63,000 before she retired. The agency's board sets all salaries, according to Ramona Stanley, executive director of the Appalachian Area Agency on Aging, which supervises the CCDC.

The governing board has 12 members, including Taylor. Board members are unpaid, and vote on decisions that affect CCDC programs.

According to meeting minutes obtained through a public records request to the Bureau of Senior Services when Taylor was initially suspended, board president Eunice Thomas and board secretary/treasurer Donald Holcomb decided on Taylor's suspension. Thomas, Holcomb and other board members did not respond to requests for comment.

Before she became director, Taylor was briefly removed twice from her job at the CCDC.

In 1999, Taylor and two other employees lost their jobs when Clay Development's board was restructured. Within a few days, a judge ordered that all three get their jobs back.

Taylor said in a lawsuit deposition that she was removed from her job again in 2002 after she was accused of pocketing fundraising dollars, but was hired back after a few months.

In 2009, Clay Development listed the job requirements for the executive director position. The director was supposed to have, at minimum, a bachelor's degree with 10 years' experience.

Taylor said in a 2008 deposition that she attended Clay County High School and had no college education. Prior to joining the Clay Development staff in 1989, she was a cosmetologist.

It's unclear if the organization's bylaws have been changed. Clay Development staff members refused to give the Gazette-Mail the most recent copy of the bylaws. They said the only person who could give the records was McGlothlin.

Stanley said the CCDC does not have to release records related to personnel matters, but are legally required to release all governing documents on request.

Taylor has been sued twice by employees for wrongful termination. One suit was settled and one dismissed.

Brenda Baird, who worked for Clay Development as a bookkeeper from 2000 to 2007, sued after she was fired. In her lawsuit, Baird said she found discrepancies on tax forms produced by Taylor, then a new employee. She said she was told not to question Taylor's work and got a written reprimand after arguing with another employee about it.

Later in 2007, Baird said, she told a CCDC board member about employees getting raises that were double the standard amount, and some employees getting bonus checks. The board member told Taylor, who then accused Baird of “trying to get her fired,” according to Baird's lawsuit.

By the end of the month, Baird was fired for “gross misconduct and insubordination.” She had not been formally disciplined for insubordination since 2002, according to her lawsuit.

Baird sued Taylor and Clay Development, claiming that Taylor fired her because of her concerns and spread lies about her.

The case was settled out of court in 2009 for an unspecified amount.

Baird declined an interview request from the Gazette-Mail, citing a gag order when the case was settled.

In a deposition in the lawsuit, Taylor claimed Baird was the one who authorized the disputed bonus checks, not her. She also said Baird had made an effort to make Taylor “look incompetent” in front of other employees.

Another former employee, Janet Fitzwater, sued CCDC last year. Fitzwater worked for the CCDC as a secretary from 1998 to 2010. Her lawsuit was dismissed in March 2015. Fitzwater did not reply to multiple interview requests from the Gazette-Mail.

Reach Ali Schmitz at ali.schmitz@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4843 or follow @SchmitzMedia on Twitter.

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