Allegations of discrimination at Louisville’s Codes and Regulations

One of the city’s major departments is in the middle of an investigation for allegations of discrimination.
Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 6:59 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - One of the city’s major departments is in the middle of an investigation for allegations of discrimination.

“The culture there is segregation,” a former employee who wished to remain anonymous because of her current employment said. “There’s no other way to describe it. “It’s been like that for years and no one has done anything about it.”

She used to work at Louisville’s Codes and Regulations Department, which inspects and writes citations for all kinds of violations of the city’s ordinances, involving things like section 8 housing or overgrown grass.

“Initially when I started, you know, I was excited about learning something new,” she said.

It took three weeks for things to start seeming off. Like being told by her supervisor, Timothy Dabney to sit in the back seat of his car.

“I do not know why I had to sit in the back seat,” she said. “Those of the other race would sit in the front seat.”

“It felt so Rosa Parks,” she said. “You know, it felt like the back of the bus kind of thing. And then it continued. I was never offered the front seat like other personnel.”

Then she noticed Dabney would not call her by her unique name, or by the simple, two-syllable nickname she said she gave them again and again.

“And right away it didn’t connect who are they talking about,” she said. “She, her, and I would say, are you talking about me? And I would address them. I have a name. Call me by my name, I’m reminding you again. Call me by my name. He refused.”

“They refused to call me by name,” she explained. “Instead, they called me ‘that girl, that black girl’, ‘her’, ‘she,’ and we could be sitting in a setting like this. It made me feel less than the human that I am.”

WAVE News reached out to Dabney, who declined an interview.

“At this time, I have no comment as I am unaware of the allegations you have mentioned,” Dabney said. “If something more specific is brought to my attention, I may have a comment at such time.”

Unbeknownst to the former employee, there were other African American employees who complained about Dabney for statements like what he said during a 2020 virtual meeting about safety with the protests going on downtown.

“They haven’t been dumb and tried to block the bridges for me to have a lot of points by the time I get home.” Dabney said, “All I’m hearing is I’m going bowling with my car.”

“They were aware when the video came out,” JD Ernst, the IKORCC 2501 Union President, told WAVE News Troubleshooters. “Within a year, or a little over a year, he was promoted to supervisor, and he supervised the same individuals that very well could have been on that bridge that day.”

The Union has submitted a formal complaint to the city’s Human Resource Department about a list of discriminatory issues at the department and in-action by supervisors.

The complaint included alleged statements by a training officer to another Black employee asking if he got his ‘tattoos in prison’ along with references to his hair, telling him he couldn’t work for codes and regulations with dreadlocks.

The complaint continued to say that the training officer would ask why Black people can say the ‘N-word’ and white people can’t.

The Union complaint continues to say that the African American employee was transferred to another training officer but no other action was taken by management including Phillip Crowe and Robert Kirchdorfer.

“The allegations are shocking, to say the least,” Ernst said. “And I can’t consciously conceive how this is even happening.”

Ernst decided to pull all the grievances from 2020 to 2022 and made a discovery, although the department had some minority employees, they comprised 65% of all disciplinary actions compared to those who were white.

“They assume that the darker you are, the more you’ll become a problem,” the former employee said.

In 2015, the union sent a complaint about a hostile work environment to HR.

“And now we’re sending discrimination complaints over there in 2023 for the same individuals that were involved in 2015,” Ernst said.

The new complaint names Dabney and his bosses, Phillip Crowe, and the department director, Robert Kirschdorfer, who Ernst said had been aware of the issues but took no action.

Collins also declined, stating he too has not seen the official complaint in order to comment.

“We want to call on Mayor Greenberg and his administration to put an end to this and fix it,” Ernst added. “Fix it now and permanently.”

“I feel better now that I am not there, but I don’t feel good because I don’t feel, I feel like somebody else is going to go through this,” the former employee said.

That concern prompts her to make one more plea, for others, whether employees or residents in city housing who’ve had run-ins with codes and regulations.

“Go ahead and whistle blow. Tell it,” she said. “Let’s shine a light on it, so we can get the right people in office that will be fair and treat us all like human beings.”

The employee was terminated after six weeks of employment for what she considers was based on nothing but an excuse. Her termination also came at the heels of her formal complaint.

“We understand a complaint was filed with Louisville Metro Government’s Human Resources department last week regarding the Department of Codes and Regulations,” the department’s spokesperson said. “Department leadership is cooperating with an HR investigation and is awaiting further instruction from HR.”

Greenberg’s spokesperson declined to comment, saying the statement from Codes and Regs would speak for itself.

In a previous version of this story, it was mentioned Timothy Dabney had been accused of making comments to another officer involving tattoos, dreadlocks and the use of the N-word. The story has been corrected to reflect another training officer, not Dabney, was accused of such statements.