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EEOC faults Butterworth on civil rights

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

Florida's attorney general violated civil rights laws by hiring too few black lawyers in a district office and paying them less than white co-workers, a federal investigation determined.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's probe of Bob Butterworth's Fort Lauderdale office also concluded that a black employee was denied time off and given extra work as retaliation after she complained of having too few black colleagues, the Miami Herald reported Saturday.

"There is reasonable cause to believe that a violation of the statute has occurred," says EEOC's confidential report, obtained by the newspaper.

Butterworth, a Democrat seeking his fourth term, said he was unaware of the details of the report but promised a quick response to correct any problems.

"Obviously I'm concerned about it, and if there is a situation that needs to be corrected, we will do it," Butterworth told the Associated Press Saturday.

"In my entire public life I think I've led the way in this area," he said, noting his tenure in the 1980s as head of the state agency that oversees the state Highway Patrol. "One of the reasons I went over to public safety was to change the agency from a white good-old-boy network, and we did."

As attorney general, Butterworth is responsible for enforcing Florida's anti-discrimination laws.

The Democratic Party is already battling racism allegations for removing black Rep. Willie Logan from a state House leadership position in favor of a white woman three months ago.

The office of Broward Clerk of Courts Robert Lockwood, a leader of Broward County's Democratic Party, agreed last week to pay $1.3-million to resolve 29 claims of race discrimination in his office.

Logan said the EEOC's findings cast serious doubts on Butterworth's commitment to equal opportunity hiring.

"I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised," Logan said. "It's typical of many Democratic officials. They fail to practice what they preach."

The EEOC's findings are the result of a complaint filed last year by Elaine Thompson, a black assistant attorney general who has worked for Butterworth since 1989.

When Thompson complained about Butterworth's unwillingness to consider black candidates for a research assistant's job, her workload increased and her request for a leave of absence was denied, the EEOC found. When she stepped up her complaints, she received more work and was denied leave to attend a family funeral, the EEOC said in its report.

Manuel Zurita, a spokesman for the EEOC in Miami, said privacy laws prohibit discussion of discrimination cases until the agency files a lawsuit to force compliance with its findings. The Butterworth case has not reached that stage.

Thompson's attorney also declined to comment.