BANGS - As about 50 people listened outside the Bangs City Hall Thursday afternoon, NAACP representatives reiterated their claims that Mayor Pro-Tem Marisa Craddock made racial slurs against a black city employee and asked for Craddock’s resignation by Sept. 9.
Craddock is alleged to have referred to the black employee - Lawrence Crosby, a 67-year-old maintenance worker - by a racial slur on several occasions and has sought his termination because of his race.
A complaint has been filed with the EEOC, and the city will likely find itself in court facing legal action that will cost the city “a lot of money,” Nelson Linder, president of the NAACP’s Austin branch, said at a press conference as the crowd gathered outside City Hall.
Bangs City Attorney Mark Bessent has said the city conducted its own investigation and could not find any witnesses who would substantiate the allegations against Craddock. Bessent has said the city can neither confirm nor deny the allegations. The NAACP has refused the city’s request to provide names of its witnesses, Bessent has said.
Linder, accompanied by two other NAACP members - Renita Sanders, first vice president of the Austin branch, and a man named Muhammad Salahuddin - arrived at Bangs City Hall around 1 p.m. for the press conference, which the NAACP had called.
There was some initial confusion because a sign on the Bangs City Hall door said the press conference would be in the council chambers, and that’s where a crowd began gathering.
The NAACP representatives, however, wanted to hold the press conference outside. Bessent and a few other city officials including Mayor Steve Whittenberg remained inside. Whittenberg later declined to comment.
Neither Craddock nor Crosby attended the press conference. Craddock could not be reached later for comment, and Crosby has been instructed by the NAACP not to talk to city officials about the allegations, the NAACP has said.
Linder said the NAACP has sworn statements from witnesses to back up allegations against Craddock. Later, a man asked what proof the NAACP has.
“We have eyewitnesses and affidavits. We gave our proof to the right sources and this is our evidence,” Linder said.
Linder would identify only one of the witnesses - former Bangs Mayor Carrol Wells.
Linder said the NAACP received a complaint about Craddock on June 27 and began an investigation, and Crosby filed a complaint with the EEOC on Aug. 16. Linder said the EEOC and the NAACP are conducting simultaneous investigations, and the EEOC could “settle this thing legally” if it finds in favor of Crosby.
If the EEOC doesn’t find in Crosby’s favor, Crosby has the option of filing a lawsuit with a private attorney, Linder said.
Linder said Bessent and other Bangs officials have not cooperated with NAACP. He said Bessent has tried to stop the investigation and “he’s tried to whitewash it … they have covered this up, they haven’t communicated and I have no faith in what they’re going to do personally.”
Bessent later disputed Linder’s comments.
“We have made three separate requests for information from the NAACP, two by letter and one verbally, and they have always refused to give us a statement regarding any witnesses, names, dates, context that the statements were made,” Bessent said after being told of Linder’s remarks.
“I personally have talked to numerous witnesses about this issue. I have also asked the chief of police to conduct an investigation and he has done this as well, and he has not been able to confirm any of this.”
At the Bulletin’s request, Bessent provided the newspaper with copies of letters he sent to the NAACP on Aug. 13 and Aug. 20.
In the Aug. 13 letter, Bessent asked the NAACP to meet with the city and to provide names of witnesses.
In the Aug. 20 letter, Bessent again asked for the names of the NAACP’s witnesses. “It would appear that both the City and the NAACP should be interested in the truth regarding the allegations,” Bessent’s letter stated. “The press conference called … by the NAACP does little to lead this issue to a conclusion. Instead, it appears to be an attempt to have the reputation of a Councilperson of the City marred in the minds of the public by information the City has had no opportunity to substantiate.”
In a sometimes-heated give-and-take with several individuals inside City Hall, Bessent explained his attempts to prove or disprove the allegations against Craddock. Some expressed frustration at what they perceived as a lack of response from city officials.
“You’re saying it didn’t happen?” a woman asked.
“I’m telling you I need to talk to some more witnesses,” Bessent said. “ … I need some names. I can’t just shoot in the dark and cold-call people in the city of Bangs.”
Another woman said, “People are imagining … they think bad things.”
After the press conference, Bessent said he would go talk with the NAACP representatives and went outside. The NAACP representatives spoke informally with the crowd, and Bessent listened from several feet away but did not approach them.
Linder, when asked if he would speak with Bessent, said the time to talk “was about a month ago. It’s way too late … what are we going to resolve verbally?”